Armenians traveling to Europe will have to apply to a Russian-Turkish company for visas
Starting from 3 April, Armenian nationals traveling to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Austria and Sweden will have to submit their visa applications to the VisaMetric company instead of the German Embassy. This news has caused public outrage in Armenia.
VisaMetric is a Russian-Turkish consortium, with a holding company based in Turkey. German Ambassador to Armenia, Matthias Kiesler confirmed the reports, saying as follows:
“This particular organization … participated in the announced tender and previously won the bids in several regions, including Central Asia … The company’s location didn’t influence the final bid outcome.”
Ambassador Kiesler assured the public that the decisions on all visa applications would be made by the employees of the German Federal Foreign Office, as was the case before.
Armenians are greatly concerned that the personal data necessary for obtaining visas would be submitted to Turkey, a country which has no diplomatic relations with Armenia. Experts also share those concerns.
“It’s very dangerous when your citizens’ personal data are in the hands of another country. It theory, it can’t be ruled out that certain information from our citizens’ personal data, namely particular routes and travel dates, may be used by Turkey against some individuals, for example if Turkish special services are plotting a special operation against a particular person in this country with the aim either to recruit or make an attempt on him, as well as in some other cases.
“Another important factor that needs to be taken into account is that Turkey has the largest community in Germany. Not to mention the fact that Turkey can pass this information to Azerbaijan,” said Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan, a political analyst.
Media expert Samvel Martirosyan believes that in such circumstances Armenia will not be able to find out whether this organization has ever transferred the citizens’ personal data to Turkey or not. In his words, there are no guarantees that such a thing can’t happen at least theoretically, though the German Ambassador stated as follows:
“As for the concerns about the security of personal data, let me assure you that it’s of utmost importance to us and we can guarantee that not a single piece of information will reach the users beyond the system. The local office will be headed by an Armenian representative and the staff will be comprised exclusively of Armenian nationals.”