It seems that the worst fears of human rights activists about restrictions on the freedom of movement of Turkmen citizens wishing to enter Turkey are coming true.
Let us recall that on September 13, Turkish President Rejep Erdogan signed a decree introducing a visa regime for Turkmen citizens. In this regard, the Turkish company «Gateway Management», which has official permission from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide such services, opened an office in Ashgabat.
The «Gateway International» website, owned by the above-mentioned company, contains a list of documents required to obtain various categories of visas - tourist, business, medical, student, etc.
For example, to obtain a tourist visa, you need to collect and provide 19 documents and certificates to the company: a foreign passport, a copy of your internal passport, photocopies of previously received visas - to Turkey, Schengen, the UK, the USA, a certificate of residence, a biometric photo, etc.
The cost of a single-entry visa is 60 dollars, a multiple-entry visa is 190; single transit – 60, multiple transit – 120 dollars.
There is also an “Important note” for visa applicants (style preserved): “All documents submitted must be current and complete. Incomplete documents submitted for a Turkish visa application may result in the application being rejected. The Turkish Mission in Ashgabat has the right to request additional documents when it considers it necessary. Submission of the above mentioned documents does not guarantee a visa. All forms and documents must be prepared and submitted individually for each individual (including family members or any group).“
Apparently the applicant must sign this note, because it goes on to say: “I understand that the acceptance, duration, conditions or rejection of the application or the time required to process the application and issue a visa is at the discretion of the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey, and its decision on this matter will be final. Visa fees and/or service fees will not be refunded in the event of a delay in the application process or the rejection of a visa application.“
Most likely, the company needs this note in order to avoid any claims/suits from applicants.
Meanwhile, information began to arrive about the consequences of the introduction of the visa.
Thus, a resident of Ashgabat, Ch., on condition of anonymity, said: “At first I had to make a lot of efforts to obtain a foreign passport from the Migration Service. And now I am faced with yet another difficulty, which showed me that in the country everything is done not for people, but against them.
The whole visa procedure is like robbery. The company's employees return documents on any occasion, finding fault with every period or comma, as a result I had to pay service fees several times. Naturally, those in dire need of a visa are already finding workarounds. The question comes down to the amount of the bribe. If previously citizens paid bribes to local migration officials to obtain a foreign passport, now Turkish diplomats will also be involved in this process.”
Considering the close cooperation between the two countries in the field of security, a Turkmen citizen, who is refused, may join the notorious list of those banned from leaving the country, which numbers tens (according to some sources, hundreds) of thousands of people.
There are fears that Turkmen, who have previously visited abroad, faced with a refusal to travel abroad from Turkmenistan, may turn into a potential source of protest sentiments.
In Turkey itself, according to unconfirmed information, in the last two weeks the police have begun to detain even those Turkmen who have a residence permit, but whose documents do not contain a visa.
Difficulties were also faced by those who were able to renew their national passports at the consulate, but have not yet managed to obtain an “Ikamet” residence permit from the Turkish authorities, since they will have to leave the country to get a visa and enter again. There are practically no options for where to go and where to get a visa, and many are not eager to return to Turkmenistan.
Economic experts note that the introduction of a visa regime will sharply reduce the flow of money from labor migration from Turkey to Turkmenistan.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights