Ukraine: Meskhetian Turks, fleeing Ukraine war, migrate to Turkey

ANKARA (AA): At least 150 people from the Turkish-speaking minority in eastern Ukraine, known as Meskhetian Turks, will flee to Turkey’s eastern region next week under Turkish asylum measures enacted in April, the general secretary of World Meskhetian Turks Association said on Friday.

Fuat Ucar said that Turkey will take in at least 3,000 Meskhetian Turks who live in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region. The first group that consists of at least 150 people will arrive in Turkey in the week of Oct. 19.

More than 6,000 people have lost their lives, and 1.4 million people, since April 2014, according to the UN, have been internally displaced in the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region of Ukraine, of which the Donbass region is a part. It includes the port city of Mariupol and Donetsk airport.

In April, the Turkish Council of Ministers enacted measures allowing at least 3,000 Meskhetian Turks to be accepted by the Turkish government as legal asylum seekers.

Ucar said that the Turkish government has already prepared 30 residential buildings for the first 150 Meskhetian Turks in the two eastern provinces; Kars and Erzincan.

“The families will be brought to Turkey at regular intervals. The personal information of the migrants has already been given to the Turkish Interior Ministry by the Turkish embassy in Ukraine,” Ucar said.

The 3,000 Meskhetian Turks must migrate to Turkey within the year, according to the measures, and the Turkish government has speeded up preparations and expedited the legal process, Ucar added.

Meskhetian Turks were expelled in 1944 from their homeland – the Meskheti region in Georgia – by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, in an attempt to remove Turks from the shores of the Black Sea.

They faced discrimination and human rights abuses before and after deportation. Those who migrated to Ukraine in 1990 settled in shanty towns used by seasonal workers.

Author: Hatice Kesgin
[Map: Meskheltian are the ethnic Turks formerly inhabiting the Meskheti region of Georgia, along the border with Turkey. The settlement area of the Meskhetian Turks in Georgian SSR in 1926. My own work based on created based on Ethnic map of Caucasus region, 1926 from A. Tsutsayev’s Atlas of Ethnopolitical Hisotry of the Caucasus, Moscow, 2007. Map as at 5 January 2012. Map by Yerevanci. Creative Commons]

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