Up to 20,000 Turks living in Austria and holding dual nationality are at risk of losing their Austrian citizenship following a ruling by the Supreme Court in Vienna. Earlier this week a 55-year-old Turkish man, not named due to the country’s privacy laws, was stripped of his Austrian nationality because he had also registered to vote in elections in Turkey.
The verdict sets a precedent for other cases to follow and marks a major success for the country’s far-right Freedom Party, which has placed anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-Turkey policies at the heart of its agenda. In December 2017, the party was sworn in as part of the coalition government and is currently responsible for the Interior and Foreign Ministries.
The issue of dual citizenship came into sharp focus in the past few years, following an appeal for support from Turkey’s ruling AK Party to Turkish citizens resident in Europe. Official figures show there are 273,000 people of Turkish descent living in Austria. Of these, 95,000 took part in the referendum on changing Turkey’s system of governance, with 73% backing President Erdoğan’s call to switch to a Presidency.
Under Heinz-Christian Strache’s (pictured below) chairmanship, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party came into power in 2017 on an anti-Islam, anti-immigration ticket
Austria’s strict citizenship laws place a ban on foreign-born residents holding dual nationality. Last year, the Freedom Party gave security services the names of all who voted in the Turkish referendum. Those who were not born in Austria will be deemed to have fallen foul of the law and could now be stripped of Austrian citizenship.
The Freedom Party claims this is the only way to stop foreigners taking advantage of Austrian and European benefits, while showing loyalty to their country of birth. Opposition figures claim this is a racially motivated crusade.