With his rich Tyrolean accent, Mehmet Altin appears to be a native of the alpine Austrian province. But the campground operator who moved to a sleepy mountain village decades ago could lose his adopted country’s citizenship, along with potentially thousands of others targeted by a crackdown on immigrants illegally holding both Turkish and Austrian passports.
Altin’s problems in some ways are the result of perceptions in Austria that Turks — among the largest groups of migrants to the country — refuse to assimilate even decades after arriving. Such fears are part of larger Europe-wide concerns that migrants represent a threat to the continent’s values.
But a law banning dual nationality in most cases and requiring new Austrian citizens to relinquish their old passports upon naturalization may be punishing the wrong person. Other residents of the village of Ehrwald consider Altin, a Turkish Kurd, one of their own.
The burly 50-year old is as much at home on skis or on mountain tours as anyone else. And although he remains nominally Muslim, Altin’s six children — from marriages to an Austrian and then a German wife — are Catholics who don’t speak Turkish.
Instead of a law-breaker, Altin says he is a victim. He says Turkish authorities didn’t act on requests to cancel his citizenship. But the government of Tyrol province has ruled against him, dismissing documents that appear to support his case that Turkey is responsible for the mix-up.
Proponents of the crackdown on illegal double passport holders have used the results of an April referendum in Turkey that expanded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers to argue that many Turks reject the European Union’s democratic ideals. More than 70 percent of Austrian Turks who voted backed the referendum.
While overall Austrian statistics are unavailable, officials in Tyrol say about 30 people — most of them Turks — have been stripped of their Austrian citizenship annually over the past few years for…