In Remote Eastern Turkey, Villagers Eye EU Visa Deal With Interest

Sep 22, 2016

LONDON — The Kurdish village of Goma Seydo, high in the mountains of Turkey's Erzurum province, little hasn't changed here in centuries. And for the young, the lure of a new life in Europe is strong.

"Half of the people from this village are over there already. Our friends and relatives are already in France and I would like to go there to join them," says 24-year-old Tugay Korkmaz.

Over 100 people from the village now live in Europe, almost half the population. In the 1990s, dozens of young men left the village for France or Germany at the height of the Kurdish PKK insurgency against the Turkish state and tried to claim political asylum.

Most failed, but stayed on illegally and married to gain citizenship, later divorcing and re-marrying Turkish women.

A better life

Yavuz Ozer, now 24 years old, moved to France when he was 11. He returned to his home village earlier this month for the Muslim festival of Eid.

"Life is comfortable there, there is work and we have jobs," he said. "I have been here for a week now, but I could not live here anymore. I am already bored."

The deal struck between Turkey and Europe in March aimed at stemming the flow of migrants, includes visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Europe.

"If the visa system is lifted, many people here would go to Europe. Those who have work here and a good profession, they would stay. The rest would leave," he said.

Sarac's mother has seen four of her children leave the village for a new life in Europe. She too harbors dreams of travel.

"I tell my children that I want to go to see them. I want to go to Izmir, and to France. We will see what happens," she said.

Ankara has threatened to tear up the migrant deal if Europe does not grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel in the coming months.

In Goma Seydo, many sense an opportunity for a new life.