Austria's dual citizenship ban threatens thousands of people of Turkish origin

Thousands of Austrians of Turkish heritage could lose their Austrian citizenship in a campaign orchestrated by the far-right Freedom Party, UK-based daily The Telegraph said.

Hundreds of people are currently under investigation by the Austrian authorities on suspicion of illegally holding dual citizenship, and the probes may spread to thousands, according to the newspaper. 

Dual citizenship is illegal in Austria, except in very few cases, and the authorities are pursuing the cases in court.

Official Austrian figures state that 273,000 people with Turkish roots live in the country and that around two-thirds of those hold Austrian citizenship. How many of those hold a Turkish passport as well is unclear. But estimates put the number at approximately 10,000.

85 people have already had their citizenship revoked, and another 18 thousand potential cases are under investigation, but human rights campaigners say the cases against them rest on suspect evidence, according to the daily. 

The Freedom Party, which is a junior partner in the Austrian coalition government and controls the interior ministry, was said to obtain a copy of the Turkish electoral register which proves thousands of people secretly retained their Turkish citizenship, the daily said. But, the Freedom Party refused the claims.

The situation has raised fears some people may end up being made stateless, and lawyers say their clients are being forced to prove they are not Turkish citizens, rather than having a case proved against them, according to the newspaper.  

Thousands of people are currently threatened with the withdrawal of their Austrian passports and deprivation of all rights in the country as well as with extradition if they fail to prove they are not Turkish citizens.