Turks frustrated by ‘deliberate’ increase in number of European visa rejections

ISTANBUL, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Turkish sports presenter Sinem Okten was surprised to have his visa application rejected twice by the Schengen area of ​​Europe, a frequent destination for matches and interviews with the likes of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp.

“I applied first to Germany and then to France. Both rejected my application,” she said. “I’ve been overseas many times to watch matches and watch films and interview people, probably 50-60 times. This is the first time I’ve had this problem.”

Turks applying for visas in the 26 Schengen countries are increasingly being rejected, data shows, and tours are being cancelled. Ankara said this week that it was a deliberate attempt to put President Tayyip Erdogan in a difficult position ahead of tight elections next year, a charge the European Union denied.

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According to statistics from schengenvisainfo.com, 16.5% of applicants from Turkey were denied visas last year, compared to 12.5% ​​a year earlier. The Schengen rejection rate was only 4% in 2015 and started to increase in 2017 for Turks, it shows.

The cost of the visa – about 100 euros, or a third of the Turkish minimum wage – is non-refundable, regardless of whether the visa is issued or not.

“Overall, Schengen visa application rejection rates have increased worldwide…However, compared to other countries such as Russia, Turkey’s rejection rate growth rate is much larger and more consistent,” said Shakurta Januji, editor-in-chief of SchengenVisaInfo.com. .

Okten said the German embassy did not give any reason for rejecting her application. A French embassy document seen by Reuters said the TV presenter had not received sufficient evidence that she could finance her stay in France or return to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said he believed the long duration of the process and the increase in rejection rates were deliberate, raising the issue in a meeting with his counterparts.

“Unfortunately, the US and some EU and non-EU Western countries give visas to our citizens after one year, 6-7-8 months of visitation. They have also increased the rejection rate. This is planned and deliberate,” he said on Tuesday.

Cavusoglu dismissed “excuses” related to coronavirus measures or staff shortages and said, without providing evidence, that the visa denial was intended to give Erdogan a pre-election headache.

His ministry will warn ambassadors of some Western countries about the issue in September, he said. “If the situation does not improve even after that, we will take counter, preventive measures.”

Nicolas Mayer-Landrut, head of the EU delegation to Turkey, told Reuters that Schengen applications are dealt with on their merits and not for political reasons, adding that relatively more incomplete and potentially fraudulent applications are seen from Turkey.

“No decisions are made on political grounds but on objective grounds,” he said, adding that Turkey’s rejection rate for Schengen visas last year was close to the global average of 13-14%.

Tours cancelled

Twenty-two of the 26 Schengen Area members are EU states.

Turkey and the bloc enjoy good trade relations and decades of migration, but relations have been strained by issues including freedom of speech in Turkey and EU policies on refugees from Syria.

Before the coronavirus (pandemic) spread across the country, Schengen states received more than 900,000 visa applications from Turkey each year, but this number dropped to around 270,000 in 2021.

According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry website, citizens of all Schengen countries are exempted from visas when visiting Turkey, most for up to 90 days and some can enter only with their identity cards.

As more and more Turks are turned away, tour operators have canceled regular trips, said Sem Polatoglu, president of Tur Andiamo.

“We are having problems. Our tours are getting cancelled. We used to schedule tours to Italy every week, now we have to offer them every fortnight,” Polatoglu said.

At a visa application center in Istanbul, 57-year-old Hikmet Dogan said it was easy to get a visa on his previous trips to see his son in Sweden.

“I traveled 2-3 times but this time it’s difficult, the cost has also increased… Unfortunately young people are trying to leave the country because Turkey’s economy is deteriorating,” Doğan said.

Beyond the Schengen area, the United States on Wednesday pledged to increase visa processing capacity in Turkey after public complaints from foreign ministers. Read on

Sports presenter Okten said she will continue her efforts to get a visa.

“The season has started and I want to cover some matches on site. I need to go abroad to do my work… I will apply again and try the opportunity from Greece this time,” she said.

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Additional reporting by EC Toksbey in Ankara and Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Darren Butler and Raisa Kasolovsky

Our Standards: Principles of Thomson Reuters Trust.

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