Germany to issue emergency visas to Turkish, Syrian earthquake victims

Berlin [Germany], February 12 (ANI): Germany will grant three-month visas to Turkish and Syrian earthquake victims with family in the country, the interior minister said on Saturday.

"This is emergency aid," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told the daily newspaper Bild.

"We want to allow Turkish or Syrian families in Germany to bring their close relatives from the disaster area to their homes without bureaucracy," added Faeser.

More than 28,000 people were killed in the devastating earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria on Monday.

It reached 28,192 on Saturday (local time), with Turkey’s death toll climbing to 24,617, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said in a news conference.

In Syria, the total number of confirmed deaths stands at 3,575, including 2,167 in rebel-held areas in the northwest, according to the White Helmets civil defense group.

An additional 1,408 deaths have been recorded in government-controlled territories, according to Syrian state media, which cited the country’s health ministry.

Faeser said that those eligible can have "regular visas, issued quickly and valid for three months".

She added that the joint initiative with the foreign ministry would allow victims to "find shelter and receive medical treatment" in Germany.

Around 2.9 million people of Turkish origin live in Germany, with more than half holding Turkish nationality.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday announced a three-month state of emergency in the 10 provinces in southeastern Turkey impacted by the tremor.

Earlier, Germany has also suspended rescue and relief work at the site of a deadly earthquake in Turkey due to security concerns, following a similar move by Austria earlier Saturday, reported CNN.

The German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) stopped its rescue operations due to a change in the security situation in the Hatay region, the organization said in a statement Saturday.

It had been operating with International Search and Rescue (ISAR) Germany, in coordination with Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (AFAD).

"In the last few hours, the security situation in the Hatay region has apparently changed. There are increasing reports of clashes between different groups. The search and rescue teams of ISAR Germany and THW will therefore remain in the joint base camp for the time being. ISAR and THW will resume their work as soon as AFAD deems the situation to be safe," read the statement.

The Austrian Army also cited security risks in suspending its operations, reported CNN.

The Austrian Army has suspended rescue operations in Turkey due to an "increasingly difficult security situation," according to the Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU).

"The expected success of saving a life bears no reasonable relation to the security risk. There is increasing aggression between groups in Turkey," Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Kugelweis of the AFDRU said in a statement Saturday.

"There was no attack on us Austrians. We’re all fine ... The mood among the helpers is good, given the circumstances ... We would like to help, but the circumstances are what they are," Kugelweis continued.

"We keep our rescue and recovery forces ready. We are ready for further operations," Kugelweis added, stating that a scheduled return to Austria for Thursday remains in place. (ANI)