LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scores of Turkish nationals living overseas risk being left stateless after Ankara threatened to strip them of citizenship over alleged links to last year’s failed coup, rights campaigners said on Monday.
Turkey said last month it would revoke the nationality of 130 citizens unless they returned within three months and reported to the authorities.
Rights campaigners warned that Turkey’s threats flew in the face of international law which prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of nationality.
Human rights lawyer Amal de Chickera said anyone not possessing a second nationality would risk ending up stateless, as would their children.
“There is extreme concern that this marks the beginning of the arbitrary deprivation of nationality en masse of those perceived as dissidents,” added de Chickera, co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) think tank.
In a report on Monday, ISI urged the international community to consider granting refugee status to Turkish citizens who have been issued with summons, and said it should carefully monitor cases of anyone at risk of statelessness.
The 130 names include people who left Turkey after the attempted coup and others who have been living abroad for some time. One man who contacted ISI said his family had not been involved in any criminal activity and were now terrified.
A major crackdown since the defeated coup has deepened the divide between Western-facing, secular Turks and those who back President Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted politics.
More than 50,000 people have been detained for alleged links to the putsch, and some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.
Erdogan warned on Saturday - the anniversary of the foiled coup - that “nobody who betrays this nation can remain unpunished”.
De Chickera said Turkey was one of a growing number of states that were using threats to rescind citizenship as a “weapon to stifle dissent”.
But he was not aware of any other country that had threatened to strip citizens of nationality for failing to present themselves for investigation.
He said ISI research also suggested that Turkish consulates were refusing to renew passports of other Turkish citizens living abroad “who have a black mark against their name”, and were refusing to grant nationality to their children, potentially leaving them stateless.
Between April and June, ISI was alerted to nearly 80 cases concerning babies born to Turkish parents living in a dozen countries including Nigeria, Afghanistan, Egypt and Indonesia.
With no nationality, stateless people are denied the basic rights most people take for granted. Sometimes referred to as “legal ghosts”, many live in destitution on the margins of society.
U.N. chief Antonio Guterres has described the plight of the world’s estimated 10 million stateless people as a cancer that must be excised. The United Nations launched a campaign in 2014 to end statelessness in a decade.
Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.