Turkey deported over 770 foreign terrorist suspects in 2019

Turkey deported nearly 780 foreigners suspected of membership in terrorist organisations back to their countries in 2019, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Sunday.

A total of 778 foreign nationals have been sent back to their countries of origin this year, state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Soylu as telling CNN Türk television.

While the interior minister did not mention which organisations the suspects were linked to, the Turkish government in November began the repatriation of Islamic State (ISIS) detainees to their countries of origin. The move followed the capturing of nearly 300 ISIS members in northeastern Syria after Turkey launched a military offensive targeting Syrian Kurdish forces, which controlled the region and held ISIS captives.

There are some 1,200 foreign ISIS members being held in Turkish prisons and another 300 in northern Syria, where Turkish-led forces have seized control, minister Soylu said last month. 

Ankara’s announcement that it would begin sending back ISIS members to their home countries even if their citizenship has been revoked was met with criticism by several European countries, who say he terrorists have been stripped of their citizenship.

Since recognising ISIS as a terrorist organisation in 2013, Turkey has suffered numerous ISIS attacks, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb attacks, and four armed attacks.

Soylu also spoke to CNN Türk on Turkey’s Syrian refugee population.

Of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, 474,679 Syrians were living in the country’s largest city of Istanbul while nearly 100,000 unregistered Syrians in the city were sent elsewhere, Soylu said. 

“We granted citizenship to 110,000 Syrians. Of them, 53,000 were adults and 57,000 were children,” the interior minister said, adding that teachers, doctors, engineers, businesspeople and scientists formed the bulk of those granted Turkish citizenship.