‘Turkey deserves safe country’ status’

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that Turkey deserved to be listed as a “safe country of origin”, despite concerns about the situation of its Kurdish minority. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily before she travels to Ankara on Sunday, Merkel noted that Turkey was the only EU membership candidate lacking that status.

“Of course we appreciate that there are concerns about the respect for human rights or the situation of the Kurdish people, but I think that it is wrong to withhold this status from Turkey,” said Merkel in an interview to be published in full Saturday. Granting ‘safe origin’ status to a country makes it tougher for its citizens to seek asylum elsewhere. The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, which has a significant population of Turkish origin and which receives a fair number of Kurds seeking protection. It is being debated at a time of high tensions in Turkey, where a double suicide bombing on a peace rally in Ankara last Saturday has raised a feud between the government and Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party HDP to a new level.