Turkey bars entry of critics by including names on list of ISIL suspects

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Esra Yanık and her family were interrogated by Turkish police at the Kapıkule border gate on the Turkish-Bulgarian border upon their return from vacationing in Turkey in August 2015.

Turkey has been arbitrarily refusing entry to foreign nationals of Turkish origin who are deemed critical of the country’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government, citing national security risks, according to a recent report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF).

SCF has identified three cases where Austrian nationals of Turkish origin were deported from Turkey after being identified as government critics by the Turkish Embassy in Vienna and consulates in Austria.

In a scandalous development, the government has been secretly adding the names of legitimate government critics who live abroad to a list of suspected jihadists drawn up from a pool of data gathered from international partners as well as national intelligence data. As of the end 2016, Turkey had barred 52,075 foreign nationals from 145 countries from entry into the country.

It has deported 4,019 people from 98 nationalities, according to the Interior Ministry data.
Although the Turkish government boasts about these figures as an indication of how it is serious about cracking down on jihadists, it turns out that people who have nothing to do with terrorism or violence were added to the list because they were affiliated with the Gülen movement, which is highly critical of the Turkish government over pervasive corruption and Ankara’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. What’s more, these people who were barred from entry were later reported by Turkish police to their counterparts in their countries of residence as possible terror suspects, victimizing law-abiding citizens and wasting the resources of law enforcement agencies in partnering countries.

The names of identified people on this list appear on police computers with the code “G87,” raising a red flag, when they are checked against the database of immigration and customs clearing checkpoints at Turkish border gates. In some cases, police at the Risk Assessment Center, which operates at 37 airports in Turkey, also screen incoming passengers for possible links to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These centers were set up in 2014 when Turkey came under intense pressure from the US-led anti-ISIL coalition for allowing jihadists to use Turkish territory as a conduit to travel to Syria and Iraq.

Yet, the Turkish government has dealt a blow to the integrity of the list by starting to add names of legitimate critics such as members of the Gülen movement, the Kurdish political movement and even critical foreign journalists and foreigners working for the nongovernmental organizations to the ISIL list by reclassifying their names under the code G87.

It appears the data for these people were obtained from the mass profiling of unsuspecting critics abroad by Turkish government employees including diplomats and imams. Pro-Erdoğan organizations abroad also help the Turkish intelligence agency to spy on these critics and illegally collect information about them. (Excerpt from Stockholm Center for Freedom)

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