Last year, Fethiye Times caught up with HMA Sir Dominick Chilcott during his coastal tour. During our meeting, he explained the responsibilities of the British Embassy towards British nationals living in Turkey and brought us up to date with the situation with regards to Covid-19.

You can read the article at the link below if you missed it.

Fast forward one year, and Fethiye Times was delighted to be invited to meet with Marianne Young, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission, Turkey. Marianne was accompanied by Liz Moriarty, HM Consul, Turkey.

Fethiye Times was accompanied by local residents, Richard and Vid Oldham to enable Marianne to gain a broader view of life during a pandemic as British nationals living in Fethiye.

(Featured photo above: Left to right: Liz Moriarty, Lyn Ward, Marianne Young, Richard Oldham, Viv Oldham)

We met at the Ece Saray Marina and resort in Fethiye for a chat over coffee on Wednesday morning.

Talking with Marianne Young – Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission, Turkey

Can you tell us about your role and your priorities?

As the Deputy Ambassador, my job is to support HMA in delivering for the government (HMG) out here in Turkey. It’s all about strengthening our relationship with the Turks and deepening our cooperation in a partnership over a whole range of issues covering everything from our security and defence work all the way through to our trade and commercial work and, most importantly, looking after the British people here and making sure that our consular team are very active on that score. In summary, everything from hard security to prosperity work, looking after British people and people links, it’s a broad and rich relationship here.

The difference between an embassy and a consulate

Before we move on, we’d like to pause for a moment and explain the difference between an embassy and a consulate, a grey area for many who do not work in the diplomatic service.

Due to the high level of interaction between countries in our interconnected world of today, diplomatic offices, such as embassies and consulates, are needed in each country to aid in and allow such interactions to occur. Ambassadors are their country’s government representatives abroad in matters between the two countries. These offices also provide services for potential emigrants and international travellers. Although the terms embassy and consulate are often used interchangeably, the two are different.

An embassy is a permanent diplomatic mission, which is generally located in a country’s capital city. An embassy is responsible for representing the home country, for handling major diplomatic issues (such as negotiations), and for preserving the rights of its citizens abroad.

By contrast, a consulate is a smaller version of an embassy and is generally located in the larger tourist cities of a country, but not the capital. Consulates (and their chief diplomat, the consul) handle minor diplomatic issues such as issuing visas, aiding in trade relationships, and taking care of migrants, tourists, and expatriates.

Can you give us an outline of the embassy and consulate structure in Turkey?

The embassy is in the capital city (Ankara) and the ambassador is sort of the CEO with the deputy being like the chief operating officer. HMA is front and centre attending all the big engagements with the host government and the big strategic work while the deputy is making sure the machine is running smoothly under him and supporting him to deliver his work.

The consulate general is in Istanbul and is headed up by a consul general (the consul-general for Turkey has recently moved on and we’re waiting for her replacement to arrive).

You only have one ambassador in a country but you can have a number of consulates run by consuls and that’s what we’ve got here. Istanbul is a consulate general and then we’ve got three honorary consulates with an honorary consul attached to them. These honorary consulates are only in Muğla – in Fethiye, Bodrum and Marmaris. Mustafa Şıkman is the honorary consul for Fethiye.

What are the main issues the embassy has had to deal with since our meeting last July when the focus was on rescue flights and helping British nationals get home to the UK?

Since then, the number of cases has gone up and down in waves so the priority has been monitoring that, making sure we stay in very close contact with the government around those developments and then feeding back through things like the Travel Advice.

There’s been quite a lot between the July visit last year with restrictions coming in and out until when finally, on July 1 this year, we entered a new era with most of the restrictions being lifted. We’ve been monitoring things very closely and feeding back the key developments and what’s going on to our customers through the Travel Advice, particularly around things like curfews as they kept changing, requirements to get HES codes to access different services and gain entry into certain buildings, and when people needed travel permits to move between provinces. or reach flights. Whilst all that was happening, we made sure we were absolutely on the ball with everything that was happening. That’s been a big piece of work.

We’ve also been having a lot of discussions between our health experts as we’ve watched the corona cases go up and down and also as new variants have emerged.

Marianne then asked if the Travel Advice is useful and if there were any other forms of communication they could use to get the updates out

Richard: One of the problems was misinformation, reading translations of the circulars sent out by the government, a lot of it didn’t make sense. One of the best sources of information has been the UK government website and we always use that. If it’s on there, we’re pretty certain it’s right (barring a couple of errors) – so yes, it’s a great source of information. It’s not only the travel advice, it was curfew information and clarification of the situation with the over 65’s

(Liz pointed out that any error spotted on the Travel Advice could be reported via the UK British Embassy Facebook page)

Marianne: That’s really good to hear because that was one of our key jobs, getting that information translated and up and signposted to people as quickly as possibe through social media, encouraging people to sign up fr the alerts and then directing them to information that has come directly from the Turkish government. When parts weren’t clear, we go back to the authorities for clarification so we can add a bit more detail to the update.

Liz: We had the same problem in that it wasn’t necessarily completely clear the first time round.

Marianne: And the Turkish government thanked us for that because there were quite a few grey areas and when we highlighted they could be interpreted a few ways, it landed well and they were grateful for the interface with us that helped to clarify those grey areas.

Marianne: Are there any other forms of communication that we could use?

Richard: No, I don’t think so. Just having one source of information that you know is accurate and you can trust, rather than four or five sources, for me personally is the best. I get an alert on Facebook or an email, I have a quick look at it and if it’s something we already know, that’s fine, but if it’s something new or that needs clarification I read it in detail.

On the question of priorities, can you share any insights into the travel list and Turkey’s red list status?

The big piece of work in May after we had the red listing was to hold very regular discussions with Ministry of Health officials and our own official health experts. We had a team called the Joint Biosecurity Centre which was set up for these groups of experts to exchange information and hold discussions. Obviously, there were concerns that led to Turkey being red-listed and they were very keen to find out why. We could get these experts together and have very frank discussions to set put what our concerns were around the criteria, covid case rates, genomic sequencing and how they’re handling variants of concern and vaccination rate. What’s been very encouraging in recent weeks is that the country has accelerated their vaccine program which has really gathered pace and we’ve been given a lot of information about that.

As far as variants of concern go, there were obvious issues with a huge hub airport like Istanbul, with a high number of people coming from other parts of the world through Turkey. The government put steps in place to stop flights from some countries with high numbers of variants of concern.

We’re very mindful that this is causing hardship, both to the British community and also how important the local tourism sector is to the Turkish community. It’s been really tough for the coastal areas that are so dependent on tourism and this is why we’ve set up these strong links between health experts and carrying out this information exchange.

There are certain thresholds, particularly if cases or variants of concern go over certain levels. This leads to greater concern but generally, we’re very encouraged by the steps Turkey has taken to bring down the cases, stopping some of the travel corridors, particularly with other red-listed countries that have variants of concern that might have been routed through Istanbul. We’re also very impressed with the safe Tourism Scheme that has put coronavirus measures in place for the safety of visitors, and we’ve witnessed how that has been introduced and applied in the hospitality sector in the hotels where we have stayed during this tour. These are all very good indicators and are the things that our officials are hearing about directly in their discussions.

Our findings are fed back to the UK where an independent risk assessment is carried out by the UK Chief Medical Officer team. It’s very much a scientific approach and the data fed back emphasises the strenuous steps the Turks have taken and the tremendous change. In late April when they were looking at data that fed into the May 7 red listing, there were over 60,000 cases a day in Turkey. That’s gone down by a factor of ten and there are now around 5,000 cases a day, with deaths are around 40-50. That’s a huge change and, as we were saying earlier, the vaccination rate has absolutely stepped up.

Marianne was keen to hear more about life in a coastal area during the pandemic

Marianne: I’m very interested to know what life has been like down here. Has it been a strong sense of community and has a support network kicked in?

Viv: We had to go back to the UK for a funeral and literally got the last plane back. I don’t think we were required to isolate at that time but we decided that we would anyway. Our friends rallied around to make sure we had everything we needed. I was touched by how many people came to us and offered to do our shopping or go to the bank for us, it was wonderful. Just after our 14 days was up, it came in that the over 65’s had to stay at home so it was reciprocated. People really rallied around each other. It made you feel like part of a community.

Richard: Of course, it was hard when there were total lockdowns. At one point, there was an issue with some residents challenging whether they were covered by the curfews as their residence permits were for tourist purposes.

Marianne: Residents are residents – it applied to us as well. We didn’t have a free pass and had to adhere to all the measures. That’s one of the key messages for your readers – we’re very keen that people comply and adhere to local restrictions.

Viv: It has reinforced the sense of community as we’re all in it together.

Richard: Things like pharmacists were fantastic, they speak English and would help with anything you needed, deliver medications, shopping even. And the small markets, corner shops, delivering bread and shopping. I think it’s fantastic what the local council do – and I mean all departments -they don’t get it right every time but they do really make an effort.

Richard: Our experience of the vaccination program has been incredible, so organised. We had our first one in the Devlet hospital – literally walked in, gave them our Ikamet, in-jabbed-sit for 15 minutes -out, and the SMS to say you were vaccinated and when you can book your next jab came as you’re walking out. Absolutely superb.

Marianne: It’s great that the British community have not been disadvantaged by not being Turkish. The vaccination gives us such a measure of protectiın. Things are a. lot better than they were a year ago.

What are the main objectives of your coastal tour?

My costal tour differs from HMA. When the ambassador comes, he does the formal engagements with local officials like the Governor and the Mayor. My tour is more abut visiting the consulates for the first time, checking in with the teams and see how they’re doing, making sure the operation is working efficiently and effectively, meeting the three honorary consuls as they are key to helping us engage with the local authorities, networking and meeting representatives of the British local communities – it’s lovely to get feedback from you and get a feel for how things are at the moment. We’re over a year in and people are tired and, although the vaccinations have really helped, psychologically, the light is at the end of a very long tunnel.

Liz: We also met with regional reps from Jet2 and TUI yesterday in Marmaris and we’ll do the same in Antalya – just to see how they are getting on as they’ve been hit hard as well.

What are your messages for British Nationals living in Turkey?

As the ambassador said, and I like that, read Fethiye Times. It’s a key information source.

Sign up for notifications on Travel Advice. It’s lovely to hear how the advice is landing and the fact that we’re getting the updates out regularly is well received as it’s the main route we use to publicize the most up to date info we have direct from the authorities.

Follow the instructions and requirements of the Turkish authorirties as we are residents and it’s important we adhere to these.

Give us feedback on what we’re doing and that the information is hitting the mark. If there’s anything that can be improved, we’re always keen to hear and there’s a function to ask questions via the Facebook page. We’re always keen to hear how we can do things better.

A word from Richard and Viv

“It was an interesting and informative meeting with Marianne and Liz. Marianne talked about the differences between Embassy and Consulate staff, their roles and responsibilities. Liz talked about the work she and her team have been doing to keep the British community informed during the pandemic and she was very pleased to receive positive feedback on the UK Gov travel advice site, having been heavily involved in it. We have found that the website provides reliable and up to date information, with email alerts when something changes, regarding restrictions in Turkey during the pandemic and we refer to it often. 
We raised the difficulties many ex-pat drivers are currently experiencing with exchanging their British driving licences for Turkish ones. They have made note of it and will look into it to seeing if anything can be done to speed up the process.

Of course, we couldn’t discuss the pandemic without mentioning how much we miss seeing family and loved ones in the UK. We are all very much in the same boat and all are hoping that Turkey comes off the Red List soon.”

We would like to say a big thank you to Marianne and everyone involved for taking the time to talk with Fethiye Times.

Marianne Young – Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission, Turkey

Marianne Young became the Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission to the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, in January 2020. She joined the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in 2001. Previous overseas postings include serving as the British High Commissioner to Namibia from 2011-15 and, before that, as Deputy High Commissioner to the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland, and Head of the External Political Section at the British High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa.

In London, she has been a Deputy Director in the FCDO’s Europe Directorate, working on EU Exit preparations, and Head of the Climate Change Unit, in Economic Diplomacy Directorate. More here…

Useful Links:

GOV.UK Turkey Travel Advice 

Facebook: UKinTurkey

Twitter: UKinTurkey

Sources: Gov.UK/ThoughtCo