Justin Huggler, The Telegraph, November 24, 2018
Thousands of people could be stripped of their Austrian citizenship in what is being called the country’s version of the Windrush scandal.
In a campaign orchestrated by the far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ), hundreds of Austrians of Turkish heritage are currently under investigation by the authorities on suspicion of illegally holding dual citizenship — and authorities say they may widen their investigations to thousands more.
Eighty-five have so far been stripped of their citizenship, but human rights campaigners say the case against them rests on suspect evidence.
Much as the UK invited the Caribbean immigrants of the Windrush Generation, in the sixties and seventies Austria encouraged Turkish people to move to the country, and many eventually became citizens.
But the Freedom Party, which is junior partner in the Austrian coalition government and controls the interior ministry, claims to have obtained a copy of the Turkish electoral register which it says proves thousands of secretly retained their Turkish citizenship as well.
Except for rare cases dual citizenship is illegal in Austria, and the authorities are pursuing the cases in court. But lawyers say the evidence is unreliable.
The Freedom Party has refused to say where it got its list of Turkish voters — and it has already been proved that some of the names on the list are not Turkish citizens.
Cigdem Schiller, who was born in Austria to immigrant parents, was able to prove that she had legally renounced her Turkish citizenship.
“We were shocked when we got a letter about this. My wife burst into tears,” Ms Schiller’s husband, Ingo, said. “We went round to sort it out right away. But the official told us the Turkish electoral list was proof she had a Turkish passport.”
After repeated visits to the Turkish consulate, Ms Schiller was able to provide proof she had renounced Turkish citizenship. And she is not the only one: according to Austrian press reports 72 people named on the Freedom Party’s list have proved they are not Turkish citizens.
That hasn’t stopped the courts accepting the list as evidence. In one case earlier this year a court upheld the decision to strip one man of citizenship on the basis such a list could only have been drawn up by the Turkish authorities.
That has raised fears some people may end up being made stateless. Lawyers say their clients are being forced to prove they are not Turkish citizens, rather than having a case proved against them.
Some have found themselves left in a Catch-22 situation. Peter Weidisch, a laywer for a man named on the list, told Germany’s Welt newspaper the Turkish consulate had refused to help his client obtain the proof he needed — because he wasn’t a Turkish citizen.