Turkey condemns Iceland over 'mistreatment' of football team

Ankara issues diplomatic protest over treatment of team who were reportedly searched for three hours by airport police.

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    Captain Emre Belezoglu slammed Icelandic authorities after the team was searched 'from head to toe' [Anadolu]
    Captain Emre Belezoglu slammed Icelandic authorities after the team was searched 'from head to toe' [Anadolu]

    Turkey denounced immigration authorities in Iceland on Monday for their treatment of the Turkish national football team after they arrived at Keflavik International Airport for an upcoming competition. 

    According to a senior Turkish foreign ministry official, a diplomatic protest was filed with Iceland over the incident.

    "The note was issued [to Iceland] by our embassy in Oslo," the official told Al Jazeera. Turkey and Iceland do not have diplomatic missions in each other's capitals.

    The football team arrived at the airport early on Monday for a Euro 2020 qualifying match with Iceland's team scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

    Players said team members were held at the passport control office for three hours upon their arrival, while their luggage was searched thoroughly and repeatedly without any explanation.

    "There has been an unnecessary search since we arrived at the airport. It has been tense … The national team has been searched by the Icelandic police from head to toe at the airport," team captain Emre Belezoglu told reporters at the airport in televised comments.

    In the footage of Belezoglu's interview, a person can be seen holding a toilet brush to Belozoglu's face as if it is a microphone while taking a video of him with his mobile phone.

    'Disrespectful'

    Another player, Burak Yilmaz, said they were searched repeatedly before being allowed into Iceland.

    "This is disrespectful. They took everybody's luggage and belongings and searched them repeatedly. We flew for 6.5 hours and waited here for another three hours. Some of our friends have still not got out," Yilmaz told reporters at the airport while leaving the premises.

    In a statement later on Monday, the Icelandic ministry for foreign affairs said it had been informed by the country's airport operator, Isavia, that the security check followed required procedures, adding that the inspections were mandatory for arrivals from areas outside the remit of agreements with the European Union.  

    "The security check of the Turkish National Football team and staff took 1hr 23 minutes," the ministry said.

    "Unfortunately, an official request for fast track security check from the Turkish Embassy in Oslo was not received in time to be processed, as it was sent on only hours prior to the team’s arrival in Keflavik. In any case, such privilege is usually only accorded to senior government officials," it added.

    Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the way his country's national football team had been treated was "unacceptable both in terms of diplomatic practices and humanitarian sense".

    He wrote on Twitter: "Our nation should have no doubt that we will do what is necessary."

    Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin added: "The disrespectful treatment of our national team in Iceland is not acceptable and what is necessary will be done. An initiative has commenced."

    Turkey faces Iceland in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers on Tuesday at Laugardalsvollur Stadium in the capital Reykjavik. Turkey leads Group H with nine points while Iceland holds third spot with six points.

    Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera