Turkey has deported two German citizens over links to the Daesh terrorist group, Turkish officials announced Wednesday.
An Interior Ministry statement said that the extradition process continues for other foreign terrorist fighters in Turkey.
Last month, Turkey began to deport foreign terrorist fighters it captured in anti-terror operations at home and abroad to their countries of origin. Some 200 Daesh terrorists whose countries of origin have been determined will be sent back to their home countries, or any third country of their choosing. Currently, there are 938 foreign terrorist fighters being held in Turkey's repatriation centers who are EU citizens. The deportation process for such prisoners was launched on Nov. 11.
The issue of repatriating citizens who fought for Daesh in Syria remains a divisive problem in Europe, with many countries refusing to accept the terrorists. Turkey has criticized Western countries for refusing to repatriate their citizens who left to join Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and for stripping some of them of their citizenship. Although the 1961 New York Convention made it illegal to leave people stateless, several countries, including France, have not ratified it and recent cases have triggered prolonged legal battles. The U.K. alone has stripped more than 100 people of their citizenship for allegedly joining terrorist groups abroad.
Turkey has long voiced calls for returning foreign fighters to their respective countries as the best possible solution among other unfavorable alternatives. By being returned to the EU, the detainees might be prosecuted and thus prevented from being further radicalized in camps filled with fellow former combatants. Ankara has said several European countries turned down its efforts to send Daesh members back to their countries.
The first batch of former Daesh terrorists to be repatriated from 28 detainment centers in 23 of Turkey's provinces were of German, Danish and U.S. origin. Of these, the U.S. citizen had requested to be sent to Greece, yet was left stranded in a buffer zone when the country did not accept him. Terrorist fighters from Germany, the U.K., the Netherlands and Belgium have all been successfully sent back, followed finally by an Irish citizen, according to the Interior Ministry.
The ministry statement said that 71 foreign Daesh members were sent to their home countries from Nov. 11 to Dec. 9. These include 18 German, 11 French, two Belgian, two Dutch, one Danish, one Australian, one British, one American and one Irish national.
Turkey has so far deported 7,500 Daesh members, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week, adding that there are currently 1,149 Daesh terrorists in Turkish prisons.
Moreover, Turkey has also prevented 8,922 foreign terrorist fighters from entering the country since 2016. Some 287 Daesh terrorists have also been captured in northeastern Syria, where Turkish troops launched a counterterrorism operation two months ago.