Granting citizenship to Syrian refugees could tip the scales in Turkey’s elections next year



By John Solomou |
Update:
April 25, 2022 07:55 STI

Nicosia [Cyprus] Apr 25 (ANI): The issue of granting citizenship to refugees from Syria and Afghanistan is gradually becoming a contentious issue in Turkey, as the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu , openly accuses President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of naturalizing asylum seekers allowing them to vote so that he can keep his post as president.
Kilicdaroglu and other opposition party leaders in Turkey are clearly concerned that Erdogan’s AKP party will gain an electoral advantage in the general elections scheduled for June 2023 by turning many of the estimated 5 million refugees hosted in Turkey into voters. .
In the previous general elections held in June 2018, the issue of naturalized Syrian refugees allowed to vote was a major political campaign issue for opposition parties in Turkey, with naturalized refugees expected to vote for the AKP and improve party performance. . mainly in the southern provinces of Turkey.
It is unclear to what extent their vote had a significant impact on the 2018 elections, as the number of naturalized refugees at the time was much lower than today.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that as of December 31, 2021, the total number of Syrians who have become Turkish citizens is 193,293. According to recent statistics, the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is estimated at 3,736 000.
UNHCR, citing official figures, says there are 300,000 Afghans residing in Turkey, 183,000 of whom are officially registered and the rest undocumented. Opposition parties insist that the number of unregistered Afghans is much higher and that in total the refugees make up around 10% of Turkey’s population of 84 million.
Many political parties as well as ordinary citizens in Turkey, seeing that refugee ghettos have arisen, especially in big cities, and that refugees are accepting very low wages, depriving ordinary citizens of work and therefore of livelihoods, called for the repatriation of refugees.
Syrians compete with locals for low-income jobs in Turkey’s tight labor market and are frequently asked to work 3-4 hours longer than their Turkish counterparts – usually for less income. The ruling AKP party says that in some towns, for example Gaziantep, refugees are keeping industry alive. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians hold the heaviest and most difficult jobs.

On March 15, President Erdogan said: “The opposition says that if they win the elections, they will send Syrian, Afghan and other refugees back to the country. We will not send them back.
Responding to a question on this subject from journalist Murat Yetkin, Kemal Kilicdaroglu replied: “Erdogan said in his own words that if he remains in power, he will not send refugees, or, in other words, asylum seekers in their country. think this is wrong for three reasons.
1- Asylum seekers cause corruption in society, mainly cultural 2- The labor of refugees is mercilessly exploited, 3. It seems that he never wanted to make peace with Syria. We (the Republican People’s Party) will make peace. With a solution in Syria, we will make peace, provide conditions for refugees to live in safety and allow them to return home safely. »
Kilicdaroglu added that if Erdogan wanted to give citizenship to asylum seekers, a referendum should be held to ask the public to make refugees citizens and allow them to vote.
A recent study conducted by the Center for Migration and Integration Research at the Turkish-German University shows that Turkish citizens’ perceptions of Syrian refugees have become significantly negative.
While 72% of Turks believe that Syrian refugees will harm the socio-cultural structure of Turkey, 74% believe that public services will deteriorate or decrease because of the refugees. Turkish citizens prefer segregation rather than integration and cohabitation with Syrian refugees.
Syrian refugees in Turkey are increasingly the target of hate speech and hate crimes and are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic problems. Several opposition party leaders have promised to send Syrians home when they come to power.
In two hate crimes in August 2021, a Syrian refugee was shot dead in Istanbul, and in September a 16-year-old Syrian man was stabbed to death in the Black Sea town of Samsun.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), on November 16, 2021, in Izmir, a Turk poured gasoline on three Syrian refugees while they were sleeping and set them on fire. SOHR said there was no prior dispute between the Syrian men and the perpetrator.
In August 2021, a group of locals attacked Syrian refugees, their homes, workplaces and cars in Ankara’s Altindag district, throwing stones at houses, destroying shops and cars and chanting anti-Syrian slogans.
Many Turks fear that the influx of Syrian refugees will change the demographic structure of their cities. Lutfu Savas, the mayor of Hatay, where there are some 433,000 Syrian refugees, says three out of four women giving birth are Syrian, while the mayor of Mersin complains that a fifth of the city’s population are refugees Syrians.
One might think that the opposition in Turkey is greatly exaggerating the impact that the vote of naturalized refugees can have on elections in a country of 84 million inhabitants, but the fact remains that in certain Turkish provinces, the Parliamentary seats, for example in Hatay, are decided by a few hundred votes.
Thus, if the Syrian refugees who openly support Erdogan’s AKP party vote for its candidates, they will tip the scales and the AKP could have a majority in the new Parliament. Many Syrian refugees are convinced that the continuation of the naturalization project is linked to the survival of the AKP party and its ability to stay in power. (ANI)

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