Greek authorities announced that 5,786 Turkish citizens applied for asylum in Greece between July 2016 and October 2018. The record rise is tied to more suspects linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) fleeing to Greece, Turkish media says. FETÖ is blamed for the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 251 people.
A total of 1,826 Turkish citizens applied for asylum in Greece in 2017, while another 3,807 applied between January and October 2018. The number of requests were only 100 between 2013 and 2015. Due to its location at the gateway of Europe, Greece has been a popular destination both for migrants and fleeing FETÖ suspects after Turkey escalated a crackdown on the terrorist group in the wake of the coup attempt. Turkish border security has stopped dozens of FETÖ suspects on the land border with Greece, while Turkish Coast Guard Command has prevented a large number of the group's members from fleeing to Greek islands near Turkish shores since the summer of 2016.
Turkey has repeatedly accused Greece of being a haven for terrorists who committed crimes against Turks. Although the two countries strive to put a past stained with hostilities behind them, Athens has recently angered Ankara over a string of decisions for asylum and the release of terror suspects wanted by Turkey. Most recently, it released two suspects involved in the 2016 coup attempt. Halit Çetin and Fatih Arık, members of an elite underwater offense commando unit of the Turkish Army, fled to Greece in 2017 after Turkey issued arrest warrants for the duo for their involvement in the coup attempt. In line with legal procedures, Çetin and Arık were taken into custody and held in a refugee camp for 18 months, a formal period for detention. They were later relocated to a secret place instead of extradited to Turkey. Earlier this year, Greece granted asylum to three out of eight putschist soldiers who fled Turkey to the chagrin of Turkish authorities. The suspects, who hijacked a military helicopter and landed in Greece hours after the coup attempt was thwarted, were released from custody in May after a mandatory detention period of 18 months expired.
FETÖ is accused of carrying out a coup attempt that killed 250 people through its infiltrators in the military. After strong public resistance helped quell the attempt, Turkey launched a nationwide crackdown and a global campaign to bring members of the terrorist group to justice.