By Michael Daventry
IMMIGRATION LAWYERS have accused the Home Office of having no idea how many Turkish people are working in Britain under a notorious free visa arrangement.
Under European Union rules, Turkish nationals are entitled to bypass all existing visa regulations and set up businesses in the UK – at no charge.
The arrangement, popularly known as the Ankara agreement, has proved popular with people wanting to start a new life in Britain. It is formally known as the European Community Association Agreement with Turkey.
The UK Border Agency told Londra Gazete last year that 22,115 applications were made under the arrangement between April 2007 and March 2012.
But in a fresh release of data this month, the Home Office claimed just 3780 applications had been made in the last decade.
‘EXPLOSION’ IN APPLICANTS
The floodgates on Ankara agreement applications were opened in 2008, when the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Veli Tüm and Mehmet Darı and ordered the Home Office to consider their pending applications.
KC Law director Hakan Camuz, who was part of the legal team behind that landmark case, said he believed the latest figures from the Home Officewere too low.
“We witnessed how thousands of Turkish applications kept waiting until 2008 suddenly had to be processed,” he said.
“The European court’s ruling led to an explosion in applications, particularly from those who entered the country illegally.”
FAR FROM THE REALITY
Mr Camuz said the number of Turkish citizens who were permitted to settle was “in the thousands”. Many remained and subsequently became naturalised citizens.
“Dozens of advisory and accountants offices sprang up around London to handle and direct the applicants. It created a whole market.
“I think it is right to assume the numbers released to you by the Home Office are far from reality.”
The figures released to Londra Gazete by the UK Border Agency last year suggested a low acceptance rate. Barely half of the Ankara agreement applications made in the previous 12 months had been accepted.
At the time the UK Border Agency said: “The UK welcomes genuine travellers from Turkey. In 2011 we issued visas to approximately 90,000 Turkish applicants, 90 per cent of those that applied.”
“The European Community Association Agreement provides unique benefits for Turkish nationals setting up businesses in the UK. We recognise the value of this to our economy and we aim to process applications as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
The UK Border Agency has since been abolished and its functions subsumed into the Home Office, which this month claimed the number of Ankara agreement applications between January 2003 and June 2013 was just 3780.
In June last year, Londra Gazete ran the story of Didem Cömertoğlu, legally allowed to work in Britain as a piano teacher, who had not been able to open a bank account, apply for jobs or even board a plane for six months.
She had sent in her passport when she applied to extend her work permit in January 2012, but the UK Border Agency, which was handling her application, would not even confirm they had it.
She was eventually granted permission to work in Britain under the Ankara agreement in August, some eight months after she applied.