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Turkey begins deportation of Western citizens suspected of joining Islamic State

Ankara says German and French citizens were being prepared for deportation
Turkey has been critical of European countries for refusing to take back citizens who had travelled to IS territory (Reuters)

Turkey has begun to deport foreign fighters suspected of joining the Islamic State group, a Turkish official confirmed on Monday. 

A spokesperson for Turkey's Interior Ministry, Ismail Catakli, told journalists that Ankara had deported a US citizen on Monday and planned to deport other suspected fighters from Europe, according to the Anadolu news agency. 

Catakli said that seven more Germans were set to be deported on Tuesday, while 11 French citizens, two Irish citizens, and two other German citizens were being processed for deportation. 

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Turkey has criticised Western countries for refusing to repatriate citizens who had travelled to IS territory, with some countries resorting to stripping citizenship to avoid the issue. 

Last week, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that Turkey had more than a thousand suspected foreign IS fighters in custody, and captured 287 during its incursion into northern Syria. 

Soylu did not confirm whether the fighters being deported were captured in Syria or Turkish territory. 

"There is no need to try to escape from it, we will send them back to you. Deal with them how you want," Soylu said on Friday.

It remains unclear, however, whether Turkey will be able to repatriate those who have lost their citizenship. 

Over the weekend, a French foreign ministry source told AFP that suspected foreign fighters were frequently repatriated to France under a 2014 agreement with Turkey and that the system was functioning well. 

"Jihadis and their families are regularly sent back to France and arrested as they leave the aeroplane. Most of the time it is done secretly. The news is not published, or released much later," the source told AFP.

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Last month, a British court heard that the UK government had considered bringing home IS-linked nationals back to Britain. 

The information emerged during an appeal being brought by Shamima Begum, a British teenager who travelled to IS-held territory in Syria, against the UK government's decision to revoke her citizenship heard at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in London.

Although the 1961 New York Convention made it illegal to leave people stateless, several countries, including Britain and France, have not ratified it, and recent cases have triggered prolonged legal battles. 

Britain alone has stripped more than 100 people of their citizenship for allegedly joining militant groups abroad.

High-profile cases such as Begum and alleged IS recruit Jack Letts have sparked court proceedings and fierce political debate in Britain.