By Ruben Meloyan
A large number of Armenian nationals have been arrested in Turkey in recent days for violating the country’s immigration rules, an Istanbul-based Armenian diplomat said on Monday.
The Irish Times daily reported last week that about 100 Armenians illegally residing in Istanbul and other Turkish cities were rounded up by police and are facing deportation to Armenia. The paper suggested that the Turkish authorities ordered the crackdown in retaliation for the anticipated adoption by the U.S. House of Representatives of a resolution recognizing as genocide the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
“I have unofficial information confirming the fact of such arrests,” Karen Mirzoyan, Armenia’s permanent representative to the Istanbul headquarters of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization told RFE/RL by phone. “I can’t give more precise information because such issues are not officially part of my responsibilities.”
Officials at the Turkish Foreign Ministry could not confirm or refute the information on Monday.
Official Ankara reacted furiously to the genocide resolution’s approval last Wednesday by a key congressional committee. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned over the weekend its passage by the full House of Representatives, expected next month, would seriously harm Turkey’s ties with not only the United States but Armenia. He did not specify what steps the Turkish government could take against Yerevan.
Turkey had already closed its border with Armenia in 1993 and has since made its reopening conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and an end to the decades-long Armenian campaign for international recognition of the genocide.
Turkish officials have indicated that the closure of Turkish airspace for civilian aircraft flying to and from Armenia is one of the measures Ankara could take in response to the passage of the genocide resolution. They have also warned that it could directly affect at least 50,000 Armenian citizens which they say live and work in Turkey. Many in Armenia dismiss the figure as grossly inflated.
“In recent months, Turkish law-enforcement bodies here have toughened their treatment of illegal immigrants in general,” said Ara Gocunian, editor of Istanbul’s Armenian-language daily Zhamanak. “Armenians are said to be among them. But I don’t know if all of those arrested are Armenians.”