Turkey slams long wait for Europe, US visas and promises action

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As Turks complain about obstacles to obtaining visas from European Union countries and the United States, the Foreign Ministry is preparing to take further action on the issue. Ankara will respond if Turkish citizens continue to face difficulties obtaining visas, the country’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Tuesday.

Speaking to news broadcaster Haber Global in the capital Ankara, Çavuşoğlu said Turkish citizens had been waiting for months to get a date from the United States and some European countries. “It’s planned and deliberate,” he said, citing meeting dates sometimes set a year after the candidacy.

Giving excuses like COVID-19 and others is “not realistic”, Çavuşoğlu said that there are solutions to such excuses and Turkey has already provided these solutions to affected countries. “They can increase the number of locally hired staff or recruit more staff from the companies they work for on visa business. It’s easy,” he said. “It is understandable that applications without proper paperwork or applications that do not meet the requirements are rejected, but we find that even applications that meet all the criteria are rejected,” he said.

He added: “The necessary warnings will be issued to the ambassadors of these countries in early September. If there is no improvement, we will take countermeasures.” He said he last raised the issue during a meeting in Istanbul with his German counterpart and earlier spoke about it with the US secretary of state.

“We see this as a challenge to the government ahead of the election,” he said. Regarding the countermeasures, the minister said they would be “restrictive”.

Many Turkish citizens face visa issues, such as extensive review of visa applications and months of waiting for an appointment date.

Earlier, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that difficulties such as the extension of waiting periods up to one year were not only happening in Turkey, but were due to the restrictions related to COVID-19. Julie Eadeh, spokesperson for the United States Embassy in Turkey, was quoted by Demirören News Agency (DHA) as saying that the backlog resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing demand for travel these months had extended wait times for visa appointments “more than desired”. Eadeh said the United States is open to visitors from Türkiye and is working hard to accommodate the visa demand. Eadeh also said that the embassy will soon move to a new building and resume appointments for non-immigrant visas.

The issue of Schengen visas has already been highlighted by a Turkish legislator. Ziya Altunyaldız of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) raised the issue in a report presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The report, entitled “The misuse of the Schengen Information System as a politically motivated sanction by Council of Europe member states” highlights the “unnecessary and extensive amount of paperwork” required for visas, as well as the high fees and the requirement that applications be submitted in person.

The report adopted at the meeting of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in the last week of June recommended an immediate review of the Schengen Information System. Altunyaldız pointed out that the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees freedom of movement. “Use of data in the system must not violate human rights, privacy and freedom of travel,” he added. However, the number of Schengen visa application refusals has increased rapidly, from 4% in 2014 to 12.7% in 2020, he told PACE, adding that the misuse of the visa system Schengen information could be one of the factors behind this. He pointed out that Turkey is the country with the highest number of Schengen visa applications, but on the other hand, Turkish businessmen face difficulties when applying for Schengen visas. Altunyaldız said in his presentation that Turkish nationals, especially those seeking to engage in business operations, face difficulties in visa application processes despite submitting required documents such as itinerary and accommodation. . Problems such as unnecessary and excessive documentation requirements, high fees, issuance of single-entry and short-term visas, issuance of the visa after the purpose of the visit has expired, and the requirement to submit an application in person were listed in the report.

Controls should be made more effective in terms of the accuracy and legality of data entered into the Schengen Information System, the report suggests. Misuse of the system that hinders the establishment of business activities and more effective investment cooperation should be avoided, he added. The legislation of the countries concerned should be updated in order to ensure that administrative decisions concerning the refusal to issue Schengen visas for political or other reasons are subject to judicial review. Altunyaldız urged PACE and EU member states to immediately finalize the revision of the Schengen evaluation mechanism and consider how to avoid shortcomings in the functioning of the Schengen information system.

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