Turks emigrate in droves due to economic woes, political violence

Turks are emigrating from their country in unprecedented numbers. Main reason for the exodus is Turkey's deteriorating political and economic situation, especially the recent increase in politically motivated violance.

"We do not feel secure and safe any more in our job, in the streets, and even in our home," said a middle-aged, middle-class man. "I am worried about the future of my children, I don't want them to get involved or have anything happen to them in thier schools, which have become centers of trouble. The best thing is to leave."

A wealthy businessman whose daughter is studying in England commented, "Frankly speaking, I am frightened by what goes on in this country. I have to take care of my future before it is too late."

Rising prices and unemployment also are a major factor in the desire of many Turks to leave the country. An engineer who has just made a deal with a Dutch firm and is preparing to settle in the Netherlands with his family said that while he could hardly make both ends meet here, his contract in Holland will enable him "to live a comfortable, easy life."

So, while until recently only low-income or unemployed workers used to go to Germany or other European countries, now the flow includes educated and wealthy people, such as engineers, doctors, technicians, businessmen, and civil servants.

The popular daily Hurriyet has started a series of articles entitled "They Are Fleeing One After Another," reporting that thousands of Turks of all walks of life are leaving Turkey and settling in foreign countries. The paper particularly deplores the "brain drain." A large number of Turkish oil experts, for instance, recently have left for various foreign countries, thus "impoverishing" the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Company.

Many of those experts were sent for education or training to foreign countries and were essential for oil exploration in Turkey. But they prefer to leave after signing contracts with companies in other countries that offer them salaries 10 times higher than in Turkey. The same applies to other professionals, from doctors to pilots.

Thus, long queues of Turkish people gather daily in front of the Police Department's passport office is Istanbul with application forms in their hands for exit permits. Overloaded with such applications, the passport office cannot process them and deliver the passports in less than 10 to 12 days.

Only a few of the applicants are real tourists going abroad for pleasure. Turkish citizens are allowed to leave the country as tourists only once in three years, and they can obtain only $500 in foreign currency.

Other applicants include businessmen, young students going abroad for study, and Turks either already working in a foreign country or going to work and possibly to settle in a foreign country.

The passport office has had to enlarge its staff to keep up with the increase in applications. The same kind of applicants are lining up in front of the consulates in Istanbul and the embassies in Ankara. Consulates from West Germany to Australia, from the United States to Saudi Arabia, have to deal with thousands of such applications.

"Even those applicants who know our policy and regulations about foreign workers come to us to discuss the ways to stay in our country," a West German consular official said.

Because of the suspected intention of many applicants to settle in the United States, the American Consulate here is not granting an entry visa to the US to Turks wanting to visit the country, unless strong guarantees are obtained from them.

"We must be pretty sure that the man who says he just wants to visit the US to see places or friends or relatives will return to Turkey within the time specified," a US official noted.

Another point disclosed in the Hurriyet newspaper articles is that recently some prominent Turkish businessmen who have emigrated to foreign countries have taken out huge amounts of capital through illegal channels.

Without revealing names, Hurriyet gives detailed accounts of illegal currency transfers to such countries as West Germany, Switzerland, Britain, and Holland by Turkish businessmen who living and operating in those countries.

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