Very often in Italy, and also in the political debate in the discourses among the common people, one refers to the word “reciprocity” when touching upon topics such as immigration and religion. The mayor of Milan feels that are we should not be willing to build mosques in Italy because, “Muslims do not allow us to build churches in their countries.”
Turkey is a country whose population is 99% Muslim, and despite this, in the city of Istanbul there are more than 100 Christian churches. Specifically, there are 60 Greek churches; Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and 30 other churches; 15 Protestant, and 10 Catholic. In Milan, the number of mosques is zero, and its mayor has guaranteed that things will remain so. But it is not religion that we want to talk about in this article.
It’s a different kind of reciprocity that we are interested in, and is linked to the freedom of movement of people. Often on our blog we get asked about which documents are needed to enter Turkey; if just the identity card, and more recently if the identity card with the stamp of renewal is accepted or not.
We want to give two examples.
I, as an Italian boy, want to go to Turkey to visit Özge, my Turkish girlfriend:
I can suddenly decide to buy a ticket for an airplane which leaves for Istanbul and I can be there in just a few hours after making my plan! I’ll just show my ID card, I don’t even need a passport that would cost 80 Euros, I do not have to pay any visa fee! Simply pick my luggage from the plane, go downstairs and hit the road for Özge’s house where i can stay without any problems up to 90 days.
Emre, as a Turkish boy who wants to go to Italy to visit Claudia, his Italian girlfriend:
Before everything starts, he must have a passport which costs more than 100 Euros. Secondly, it is necessary to obtain a valid visa for entry into Italy. To get a visa, you should contact the Italian Consulate in Istanbul and ask for an appointment to submit all required documents. If you don’t have the time or the opportunity to go to the office of the Italian Consulate, you can also contact a company that will take care of the practice, of course by paying extra 30 Euros. The application for the visa costs 75 Euros, but for a student like Emre, it may be very difficult if not impossible to obtain a visa for the reasons I will explain now.
First of all, you must declare your airfare, especially the return which you need to buy in advance(at least two months!). Also, you must get travel insurance, your booking for the hotel where you will stay during your whole visit, and bank statement of the last six months which is signed and stamped by the bank! But in our case study, Emre was only going to go to his girlfriend’s house for 10 days, not to a hotel. Moreover, he is having master’s degree at the university after graduating from econometrics, therefore he doesn’t have a fixed income, so how can you get the whole thing done? At this point, he better get a complete invitation letter from his girlfriend or more usefully from her father! The process itself is humiliating enough, but it must be added that the letter will still not be enough, because you also have to ensure that you have the money needed for the whole stay (indicated by the tables of the Italian Ministry, it is declared 44 Euros per day). So, if Emre doesn’t have 440 Euros, he will need to show a bank guarantee by the people who invited him. After dealing with all these expenses and this bureaucratic process, it is possible that further investigations made and other documents required, but in any case it’s quite likely that the visa is refused for any trivial reason. Obviously, the costs will not be refunded after all. Even if the visa application is rejected, 75 Euros of visa cost and airfares will remain unused.
Are you surprised?..Do you think there is a situation of reciprocity?
In recent months, we have met many tourists and Italians to whom we told about this situation. Naturally, noone was aware of this situation and all remained quite surprised. We would like all the Italian tourists for whom it is easier to organize a trip to Istanbul, know what difficulties faced by Turkish people who want to visit Italy for tourism related reasons. The example above refers to a student but it is the same for all categories including working class and businessmen.
Turkey is a country of 80 million inhabitants, and they are certainly not all from low economic class. Italy has always gotten a special fascination on people just like Turkish friends who would like to take a trip to Italy because of the admiration for this beautiful country. But they are strictly forced to go through these humiliating bureaucratic procedures.
Many young Europeans with their sleeping bags no penny in their pockets can afford to go travel all over Europe including Turkey. They have the freedom to move from one country to another without having to account to anyone, to camp wherever they want to, to visit friends or acquaintances without programming before. This whole freedom is denied to Turkish young people.