The Interior Ministry has granted 585 Ahiska Turks citizenship, the World Ahiska Turks Association (DATUB) official said yesterday.
The citizenships were granted from among the 3,000 Ahiska Turks who have arrived in Turkey since December 2015.
Since December 2016, around 1,200 Ahiska Turks have arrived in eastern Erzincan province's Üzümlü district, where the government provided them with furnished apartments.
According to DATUB, nearly 25,000 Ahiska Turks live in Turkey.
In 1944, the Ahiska Turks were expelled from their homeland - the Meskheti region of Georgia - by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Many migrated to Ukraine with the breakup of the Soviet Union, where they settled in shanty towns used by seasonal workers.
DATUB General Secretary Fuat Uçar told Anadolu Agency (AA) that 585 Ahiska Turks had been granted Turkish citizenship in the first phase as per directions from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey is continuing to process the citizenship requests of the Meskhetian (Ahiska) people, 510 of whom have been settled in the Uzumlu district and 75 in the Ahlat district of southeastern Bitlis province. "We have been informed that nearly 1,000 people will get citizenship by the end of the year," Uçar said.
He appreciated the move, saying: "[...] This is a bliss for us since Turkey's own children were living in foreign lands and suffering homesickness for 73 years."
Ahiska Turks will have the same rights and advantages as Turkish people, he said. Uçar said the Ahiska people will also do their military service and add values to the motherland.