Fear for her relatives in the Turkish disaster area drives Suna Cataldegirmen to despair in distant Germany. Her husband flew to Turkey a week ago: to the hard-hit province of Kahramanmaras. There he set up emergency housing for his parents in a basement in a village near the city of Pazarcik. "Everything is gone in the village," reports the 43-year-old to the German press agency dpa. "Almost all of our relatives live in tents. The hygienic conditions are bad, they can't shower, sometimes there isn't enough food. It's very cold. There is hardly any medical care."
The woman, who lives in Leverkusen, calls her relatives as often as possible, who send cell phone photos full of rubble and of miserable living conditions. The 43-year-old is also very worried about four babies. "One already had diarrhea and fever. Dear God, please let the babies live." According to official figures, more than 42,000 people lost their lives in the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and millions lost their homes.
Cataldegirmen's girlfriend can hardly sleep out of concern for her nephew, his wife and the twin babies. In Gölbasi in the province of Adiyaman, her four relatives are currently spending the night with many other earthquake victims who have become homeless in an overcrowded sports hall, as Sevil Kurtal of the dpa describes. They prepare baby food for the eight-month-old infants with melted snow. Sevil Kurtal wants to take her to her apartment near Cologne, but that's difficult.
Serkan Sayin from Ahlen in Westphalia is worried about his 81-year-old mother, whose house in Iskenderun in Hatay province is in danger of collapsing. "She just cries. I want to bring my mom to Germany." She is single and lives in an emergency shelter. Requesting visas, passports, biometric photos or other documents for entry into Germany from the earthquake victims is now impossible. "That's too much to ask."
Cologne engineer Ispir Bayrakcioglu can only think of his loved ones in Turkey. His stepbrother left in his car a week after the earthquake and has now been able to reach five relatives in Hatay. The brothers want to get their relatives out of there. "Our relatives are 100 percent in need. They have no water, no toilets, no places to sleep." He criticizes a "difficult procedure with 1000 conditions" for admission to Germany - extreme hurdles, he says.
His brother initiated the visa process for the relatives at the consulate in Ankara. "I'm supposed to give various security guarantees for everything. That's nonsense." It is natural to take care of the relatives, he says. The federal government has announced an unbureaucratic visa procedure so that earthquake victims can find accommodation in Germany as quickly as possible. According to the Federal Foreign Office, those affected need a visa if they want to live with their first or second-degree relatives for up to three months. The accepting family member must submit a declaration in which they undertake to pay for their livelihood and subsequent departure.
Mehmet Demir from Dinslaken complains: "The whole thing is totally complicated." The tour operator has just returned from Turkey, many of his relatives lost their lives in the disaster. His niece was rescued from the rubble. He wants to bring the 16-year-old and her parents-in-law to him, but first brought them to a hotel in Antalya. To apply for the visa, he tried calling Antalya, was directed to Izmir, and then referred to a website. "No contacts. If you don't have any connections, you don't stand a chance," complains Demir.
In Turkey, visa applications for Germany are processed by the service provider iData. The next branch in the earthquake region - Gaziantep - is closed due to building damage. Applicants have to go to Izmir or Ankara, for example, although Ankara is around 600 kilometers from the epicenter of Kahramanmara. A remedy should come soon, says an employee on site of the dpa.
On the German side, the immigration authorities at the place of residence are required for the declaration of commitment. He still didn't get an appointment, reports Demir. In Leverkusen, too, Sevil Kurtal's declaration for her four relatives could only be made at the reception of the authority, nobody could be spoken to. Too much crowd. Now the waiting wears you out, says Cataldegirmen. The nurse believes that great help, such as for war refugees from Ukraine, who are allowed to enter the country without any problems and are supported by the state, should also benefit earthquake victims from Turkey and Syria.
The NRW refugee ministry says the state has instructed the immigration authorities to generously consider extending existing tourist visas. This is intended to help citizens from the earthquake areas who were already in NRW with a visa before the earthquake - so that they can stay a little longer. Of all federal states, most people with Turkish roots live in North Rhine-Westphalia.
In Hamburg, Zöhre Karali breathes a sigh of relief: "My parents and my two siblings are alive." But: "You don't know how things will continue. You need certainty. Some relatives are still missing." At the same time, Karali mourns the deceased. Serkan Sayin would like to bring his mother personally from the disaster area to Ahlen right away. He hardly manages to muster patience. His apartment, in which he lives with his wife and two children, is not big, he says: "But for my mum, I would sleep on the floor, she could have my bed right away."