Berlin (GPA) – German journalists have compiled a report that shows strong evidence of Turkish spies infiltrating the immigration system in order to report information on political asylum seekers back to Ankara.
German media outlets, Deutsche Welle and ARD have collected testimony from asylum seekers fleeing from post-coup Turkey, and the preliminary results show a significant amount of information that should only be available to the German state is ending up in Turkish media.
The root of these leaks now seems to have been found by the DW/ARD journalists, and it seems to be coming from inside the Germany federal immigration authority (BAMF). This information came through interviews conducted with Turkish asylum seekers who claim information they gave to BAMF interpreters, interviewers, and security personnel.
The journalists found several cases where information that was given to BAMF officials in interviews and appointments appeared in Turkish media, sometimes in less than the span of a day. Often the information released by the media was also accompanied by accusations of terrorism.
Several pro-Erdogan outlets are also accused of using leaked BAMF information in publications of the locations of Turks citizens in Germany. BAMF did disclose that the agency had recently fired 15 freelance interpreters, but they claim this is unrelated.
Hundreds of ex-government workers, NGO employees and private citizens with even marginal political beliefs have fled to Germany since last year’s failed coup.
One such case highlighted in the DW story was that of a teacher named Fuat Balci. Balci was a member of a doctors association in Turkey that is closely linked to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. Balci reported that his Turkish speaking BAMF interviewer harassed him in what basically amounted to an interrogation. After Balci’s lawyers brought the case to German authorities the interviewer was fired, although it was denied the questioning was biased.
After Balci’s lawyers brought the case to German authorities the interviewer was fired, although it was denied the questioning was biased.
Also included in the report were some statements about how these dangers have become a known fact within the Turkish emigre community. That was at least what was implied by Erkin Erdogan, Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), a progressive Turkish organization.
Erkin Erdogan told the DW journalists that he personally knew of “several cases” where Turks working in the BAMF had changed the statements of Turks seeking asylum. Erdogan’s say the main concern seems to be translators and said that the HDK is “always warning people who applied for asylum that they should be very careful about the translators, and if they don’t feel comfortable, they should ask to change them.”
The BAMF says it is well within applicants rights to request a different translator but still stands by the neutrality of their contractors. Translator applicants must go through a police background check, take a “reliability test” and “fill out a standard questionnaire” to gauge integrity.