Will citizenship be revoked, a question that worries Turkish Syrians
Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli
Ismail, a Turkish journalist of Syrian origin, and his friend Issa, a Syrian-Turk, sit alongside their Turkish friends in the city of Istanbul, which has the largest number of Syrians according to official statistics issued by Turkish government agencies, to talk about the many political parties in the country.
Amid different and divergent opinions about Turkish political parties, there are those who criticized the political composition of all parties. And regardless of whether the youth’s opinions are correct or not, Ismail’s speech revolved around adopting his political views according to the degree of danger he feels on a personal level, as the parties hostile to foreigners threaten to revoke their nationalities and deport them from the country.
Talk about fear of the country’s political future constantly leaks from the conversations of some naturalized Syrians and foreigners, even during the time period preceding the Turkish presidential elections, as some of them consider that their stability is threatened, due to their ignorance of nationality laws, especially the “exceptional” ones.
Throughout the hours that Ismail spent trying to justify his political opinion based on his fears of revoking his nationality or restricting his life in Turkey, Sumaya, a law graduate from the Turkish University of Arel, said that citizenship cannot be withdrawn from a Turkish citizen except in two cases that cannot apply to Ismail.
The first case is a charge related to terrorism, and the other is the discovery of forged papers that he submitted in his file to obtain citizenship.
Ismail believes that the nationality he obtained is “exceptional,” and there is no clear information about it, and he cannot be considered a Turkish citizen once he obtains it.
While the Turkish opposition has pledged for years to deport Syrian refugees from the country, parties appeared before the elections pledging to revoke citizenship from naturalized refugees, such as the Zafer Party headed by Ümit Özdağ.
On May 8, the leader of the Turkish opposition, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, one of the candidates for the presidency, pledged to deport “all Syrian brothers” from his country within two years after he comes to power.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech came during an election rally in the state of Adana, which includes large numbers of Syrians in southern Turkey, according to the Turkish Anadolu Agency (AA).
He said at the time, “If they want, they can come to Turkey as tourists, and they can hold their weddings here. We have no problem with that, and I will change the policy 180 degrees.”
Is “exceptional” citizenship revocable?
Turkish legal expert Halim Yilmaz, who is among the group participating in the preparations for the Foreigners and International Protection Law, told Enab Baladi that Turkish government institutions have wide powers to make changes to naturalization files, but of course, this change will not happen just because the government changes.
Article 31 of the Turkish Nationality Law provides for the possibility of withdrawing citizenship from a naturalized foreigner in the country if a forged document was used during the application for naturalization, according to Yilmaz.
Making a false statement about an important issue related to the naturalization file, such as identity information or other personal information, or using forged documents, authorizes government agencies to revoke a person’s nationality, according to Turkish law.
On the other hand, the withdrawal of citizenship can be regulated in the law according to the rule that “a person acquires citizenship for the second time by mistake or repeatedly.”
Yilmaz said that what is meant in this part is to grant citizenship to a foreigner by mistake, or “without entitlement,” and it was given to someone a second time by mistake, and in this case, the responsible authorities have the right to withdraw the naturalization decision for the first and second times.
He added that this part of the legal right is taken into account, even if the person gave his documents legally, provided all his information in a real honest way, and had a normally functioning court investigation, security investigation, and proper civil record, and acquired the right to obtain citizenship in accordance with the law. In this case, the possibility of withdrawing citizenship remains possible unless the person receives the Turkish ID.
The Turkish expert believes that all previous powers of government institutions can be subject to appeal, and the final judgment is issued based on the court’s decision.
Broader government powers
Turkish legal expert Halim Yilmaz believes that the “exceptional” nationality granted to foreigners in the country, including Syrians, entails broader governmental powers regarding explaining the reasons for accepting or rejecting the naturalization file, even in court.
However, when a person applies for Turkish citizenship based on his residence in the country for more than five years, and the authorities refuse, he can file an objection to the court, and the court is required to state the reasons for the refusal, but this criterion cannot be applied in the case of “exceptional nationality.”
The “exceptional” citizenship is granted almost “without any conditions,” and the requirements for obtaining it are much lower than the rest of its types, such as marriage and residency, Yilmaz told Enab Baladi.
“When the rejected applicant goes to court, the court does not want to interfere much, noting that there is no basic rule stipulated by Turkish law in this regard, but Yilmaz’s practice of his work in the courts in related cases led him to this result,” he added.
Citizenship cannot be withdrawn
Regarding fears of the possibility of withdrawing nationality from Syrians in general, which some naturalized people in the country have been feeling for years, Yilmaz confirmed that such matters cannot happen.
“Such a thing is never possible. While doing something administrative, it must be carried out individually, and it is not possible to take a similar step that targets a specific group or category entirely,” the Turkish legal expert said.
Yilmaz considered that the option available to the government is to check the documents submitted in the naturalization files and to revoke the nationalities of those proven to have forged legal papers, and the nationality files are reviewed individually.
How are Syrians naturalized?
The criteria for naturalization under the “exceptional nationality” law in Turkey are somewhat vague, as the files go through several steps, including legal, security, and archival ones, but the criteria that are applied during these steps are unknown, even to legal specialists.
Yilmaz told Enab Baladi that the authorities cannot in any way naturalize a person just because he has a temporary protection card (Kimlik). The state has its “discretionary” power in this regard.
The Turkish lawyer pointed out that the discretionary authority here is not clear, as the responsible party grants citizenship to the foreign citizen as soon as it deems that he deserves it, while rejecting the file of those it does not deem deserving, but the eligibility factor is decided according to internal government standards.
The number of naturalized Syrians in Turkey has reached 223,881, the Turkish Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu, said on December 18, 2022.
The number of Syrians residing in Turkey who hold a temporary protection card, according to the latest statistics issued by the Turkish Presidency of Immigration on its official website, has reached 3, 395,909 people.
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