26th Oct 2016

EU aims to lift visas on Turks despite purge

  • Some 60,000 people have been detained or fired since the failed military coup in Turkey (Photo: Reuters)

Short term visa for Turks visiting EU states may still be lifted despite a government-led purge that has seen thousands of judges, civil servants and teachers detained or suspended from their jobs.

"We still hope that this process can reach completion sometime after the summer break," chief European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Friday (22 July).

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Schinas said that the EU executive's position on a migrant swap deal and visa waivers remains unchanged despite Turkey's recent announcement to also temporarily suspend the European convention of human rights.

He said the commission was still ready to revoke the visa restrictions on Turks once lawmakers in Ankara re-write the county's anti-terrorism law.

Ankara's broad definition of terrorism has been used to crackdown on opposition MPs and journalists in the lead up to the coup attempt.

Schinas said the law needs to be changed so that it won't impact people like "journalists, writers, and educators".

Turkey targets teachers and deans

As of earlier this week, over 21,000 private teachers have had their licenses revoked in Turkey in the wake of a failed coup. Another 1,577 university deans have also been asked to resign.

Schinas, for his part, was able to draw a distinction between the broad definition of terrorism in Turkey's law and the purge.

He described the chaos in Turkey as "exceptional" and noted that Turkey's parliament had been bombed and that innocent people had been shot.

"This is also something that has to be taken into account," he said.

He said Turkey had met the conditions to temporarily suspend the European human rights convention.

The convention is governed by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

A state is allowed to derogate from the convention "in times of public emergency threatening the life of a nation."

France had made a similar demand last November following the Paris attacks.

However, it does not mean the state can then deny people the right to life, torture or impose degrading conditions, or impose extra-judicial punishments.

Turkey's autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed even more far reaching measures after imposing a state of emergency on Wednesday.

The EU in a statement following the emergency decree said Turkey's "recent decisions on the education system, judiciary and the media" were "unacceptable".

Turkey safe for rejected asylum seekers

The commission's Schinas also said laws previously enacted in Turkey means the country is still safe enough for rejected asylum applicants to be sent back from Greece.

"Turkey has taken all the necessary measures to allow Greece to declare on the basis that an application for asylum is admissible in accordance with asylum procedures," he said.

Turkey's legal designation as a "safe third country" underpins, in part, the March agreement that allows European authorities to send asylum seekers back to Turkey.

Aid groups like Amnesty International have in the past declared illegal the migrant agreement over broader human rights concerns.

Turkey hosts some 3 million refugees but has also been accused of pushing people seeking protection back into Syria.

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