Frustrated by economic woes, hundreds of Turks have rushed to the consulates of Canada, New Zealand and Australia in hope of emigrating to prosperous countries far from home.
Officials from the three countries' missions said Thursday, April 19, there had been an unprecedented rise in applications and telephone calls by Turks seeking to emigrate since February when a grave financial shake-up led to skyrocketing prices and massive layoffs.
The New Zealand embassy said it was under a virtual deluge of telephone calls by emigration aspirants. "We receive between 500 and 800 calls a day. This is a record number, more than a 200-percent increase when compared to last year," an embassy official said, adding that many of those interested were university graduates.
The majority of those who wished to reach Australia also held advanced degrees, had a good knowledge of English and were under the age of 45, an official from the country's consulate in Istanbul said.
The Canadian embassy was stunned by the "extraordinary demand" among Turks wishing to leave their country.
Apart youths wishing to study in Canada, a country which receives a limited number of qualified migrants each year, hundreds of ineligible Turks were ringing the embassy on daily basis to request help to move to the country, a spokeswoman explained.
"A small furniture manufacturer from Ankara, for instance, called to say that he and his friends wanted to go to Canada," the official said. Asked whether he spoke French or English, the official languages of Canada, he responded: "No, but I can learn in three months."
She put part of the blame of the influx on Turkish newspapers, some of which erroneously reported that Canada granted citizenship to any person who resided there more than three months.
Among those who entertained hope to make it to Canada was a new graduate of translation department from Ankara's private Bilkent University. "I want to go there, because I fear that I will not be able to find a good job here amid this crisis," she told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
A friend of hers, an archeologist who has been jobless for the past three years, said: "Canada is a country of opportunities. There I hope I can at last begin practicing my profession."
Turkey's economic crisis has caused its currency to lose more than 40 percent against the dollar, triggering price rises on all basic goods with gasoline topping the list with a nearly 60-percent increase in less than two months.
As the Turkish lira collapsed, the minimum wage, determined by law, shrank to a mere $110 and the average salary in the public sector to $315.
Last Saturday, Turkey announced a tight economic recovery program, which envisaged a nine-percent cut in public expenditures, far-reaching reforms in the banking sector and an accelerated privatization.
Trade unions blasted the measures, saying that they fell short of addressing the problems of the ordinary citizen such as a decreased purchasing power, unemployment and income distribution.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit warned the public against overblown expectations of immediate recovery. "The picture is not rosy, but there is no place for pessimism," he said. — (AFP, Ankara)
by Burak Akinci
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)