NewsRussians flee Turkey amid residency woes and rising costs

Russians flee Turkey amid residency woes and rising costs

Russians voting at one of the consulates in Turkey during the presidential elections
Russians voting at one of the consulates in Turkey during the presidential elections
Images source: © East News | AA/ABACA

6:39 AM EDT, May 22, 2024

Russians who left for Turkey after the invasion of Ukraine are now moving en masse to other countries. The reasons are difficulties obtaining residence permits and a lack of bank access. Reuters reports that "tens of thousands of Russians" have left the republic over the past year.

According to Reuters, tens of thousands of Russians who fled to Turkey after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine moved to other countries last year due to overwhelming residency issues and rising living costs. The agency spoke with nine Russians and also accessed statistical data.

Mass exodus of Russians from Turkey

When the war began in February 2022, Turkey, Russia's neighbor on the Black Sea and a NATO member, became a magnet for Russians. Some opposed the invasion, while others tried to protect themselves and their businesses from Western sanctions imposed on Moscow, including travel bans for Russians to much of Europe. Some men feared being drafted into the military.

According to official data, however, the number of Russians holding residence permits in Turkey dropped to 96,000 this month—a decline of more than one-third compared to 154,000 at the end of 2022.

Nine Russian citizens who spoke with Reuters stated that "they and others left partly because of difficulties obtaining residency permits." "Many have headed to Serbia and Montenegro, among the few European countries where they are welcome," the agency writes.

Russians are fleeing further due to rising costs—last month, inflation in Turkey reached 70%. Russian citizens also have trouble handling basic banking due to imposed sanctions.

Escaped partly to avoid mobilization

"You can't predict your future in Turkey," said 46-year-old Dmitri, an IT worker who declined to give his last name.

After Russian dictator Vladimir Putin announced mobilization in September 2022 to recruit Russians to fight in Ukraine, Dmitri left St. Petersburg. He reunited with his wife and four-year-old son in Istanbul.

However, in January 2023, he received an SMS on his phone informing him that his residence application was rejected without explanation. A month later, Dmitri left Istanbul.

"I had signed a rental contract for one year but had to leave everything behind. We moved to Montenegro because it is economically and politically more stable than Turkey," he said.

Problems with legalizing residency and banking

The Turkish Presidency of Migration Management stated that all rejected residence permit applications include justification in the foreigner's language according to relevant regulations and that applicants are free to take legal action.

The email stated that "departures of Russians were not only linked to residency permits."

Although the Kremlin has not published any data on the departure during the war, the Danish Refugee Council's Mixed Migration Centre claims that since the invasion of Ukraine, about 800,000 Russian citizens have moved abroad.

Turkey, maintaining cordial relations with both Moscow and Kyiv, kept visa-free travel for Russians after the invasion and did not join Western sanctions against Russia.

Then Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Russian oligarchs—and their yachts—are welcome, but "must abide by international law to do business."

Alexeyev, instead, applied for a German "humanitarian residence permit" and has been living in Nuremberg for a year.

In the past two years, some wealthier Russians have obtained Turkish citizenship by buying homes worth at least $400,000 under a state program, surpassing Iranians and Iraqis, who were previously the largest foreign buyers.

"But bureaucratic troubles have proven too onerous for many," said 40-year-old Eva Rapoport. She worked for the "Ark Project," which helped Russians arriving in Istanbul with free housing and legal support. She also "joined the exodus from Turkey," Reuters writes.

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