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Foreign ministry tight-lipped about Finnish-Turkish dual nationals detained in Turkey

Social media criticism of conditions in Turkey or President Erdogan could lead to problems, according to media reports.

Suomen passi henkilön kädessä.
Turkish authorities may not recognise dual citizenship if an individual is suspected of committing a criminal offence. Image: Yle

Turkish officials have prevented Finnish-Turkish dual citizens from leaving the country for ambiguous reasons, according to information obtained by Yle from various sources. The problem of dual citizens being barred from leaving the country appears to have begun in 2016, after an attempted coup.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that dual nationals have faced travel bans in Turkey in recent years, but it would not disclose the precise number of people affected or comment on the reasons why they may have been blocked from leaving.

"There have been a few of these cases affecting Finns. I cannot comment further on the precise number of cases," said consular head Antti Putkonen.

The ministry has issued travel advisories warning dual citizens that Turkey does not recognise dual citizenship with Finland, thereby limiting the ability of Finnish authorities to assist them.

"Of course from our perspective they are Finnish citizens and we try to help them. However they also have Turkish citizenship and local officials can treat them as exclusively Turkish nationals," Putkonen added.

"Likes can lead to criminal probe"

Other European countries have also said that dual nationals with a Turkish background who have visited their home country on vacation have been barred from returning home to their adopted countries. The German foreign ministry has warned that opinions shared on social media, for example, could lead to problems in Turkey.

According to those warnings, even liking or sharing news items could have consequences. The travel bans imposed on dual nationals may be driven by social media opinions on conditions in Turkey or criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Such comments could be classified a crime and could lead to an investigation and possibly even a trial.

In previously-reported cases, people have been suspected of supporting the Kurdish pro-independence party PKK or cleric and scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been accused of instigating the 2016 coup.

The chain of events has been similar in several cases. People have encountered problems during passport control checks, either upon arrival or when they attempt to leave Turkey. In some cases, they have ended up stranded in Turkey for several months after being denied leave to travel.

Informants in Finland

Suspected informants have also been communicating with authorities in Turkey. However it remains unclear to what extent this has been organised and whether or not the Turkish embassy or pro-Turkey organisations have been involved.

At least one person who has travelled to Turkey was detained shortly after arrival on the basis of information provided by an informant. According to Yle sources, a few other Turkish-background Finnish citizens have found themselves in trouble because of informants.

People detained in Turkey have also been pressured to inform on their compatriots. Documents from an ongoing trial in Turkey include an interrogation report that draws attention to a Turkish-background Helsinki man who claimed that several people living in Finland were involved in "terrorism".

Dozens of German dual citizens in Turkey

At the end of August, the German foreign ministry issued a report indicating that some 62 German dual nationals were in Turkish prisons. Another 38 were said to be languishing in conditions resembling house arrest in Turkey. Persons placed on a travel ban must report to the police regularly – once or twice weekly.

The German foreign ministry report provides no indication of what offences the people detained or placed under house arrest are suspected of committing. According to German media reports, some of the cases can be linked to criticism of the Turkish government on social media.

Turkey has been known to collect information on citizens living abroad, so it is possible that officials also have information about anti-government demonstrations.

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