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Pak Turk Schools employees in UN protection after visa extensions turned down

Pak Turk Schools employees in UN protection after visa extensions turned down

As many as 108 Turkish employees of the Pak Turk Schools, along with their families, have been in the United Nations' (UN) protection after Pakistani authorities denied them an extension in their visas to work in the country, DawnNews reported.

Documents available with DawnNews reveal that the individuals had requested the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, that they be resettled in a country other than Turkey after Pakistan ordered to deport them.

The applicants had told UNHCR they feared arrest, coercion and torture by the Erdogan government in Turkey in case the Pakistani government forcibly deported them to Istanbul.

The Pak-Turk schools used to be administered by a foundation linked to Fethullah Gulen, once an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, after an abortive military coup in July 2016, the Turkish leadership blamed Gulen for sponsoring the overthrow attempt, resulting in a global crackdown on the religious and educational network led by him.

The Turkish government, in the wake of the attempted coup, jailed over 120,000 individuals on charges of facilitating rebels.

The Turkish foreign minister had in August asked Pakistan to close the institutions. In the second week of August, the management of the chain removed the Turkish principals of their 28 schools and colleges and also dissolved the board of directors which had representation from Turkish nationals.

When the Turkish faculty's visas expired in September 2016, the Pakistani government said it would not extend them.

The Interior Ministry also rejected an application filed by the affectees pleading for an extension in their visas, asking all affected individuals to leave the country by November 20. The decision was announced two days before Erdogan visited Pakistan in November last year.

However, the Sindh High Court later suspended the deportation order; the high courts of KP, Punjab and Balochistan had followed suit.

A spokesman for the UNHCR confirmed that the affectees will stay in UN protection until November 2017 and that efforts are underway to resettle them in another country.

“We are extremely concerned about our families in Pakistan. We applied for asylum because the Pakistani government can hand us over to the Erdogan administration anytime. We are now under UN protection,” one of the affectees, told DawnNews on Saturday.

He said that because he can no longer work in Pakistan, he had to sell household items to feed his family. “I fear starvation here and persecution in Turkey. My destination has to be a country other than Turkey,” he said.

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