Turkish opposition calls for referendum on citizenship to Syrian refugees

By bne IntelliNews July 13, 2016

Turkey’s opposition has called on the ruling party to put a controversial government plan to grant citizenship to nearly 3mn Syrian refugees to a referendum amid media reports suggesting social tension between locals and refugees is increasing.

The leader of the main opposition party CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, criticised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who first floated the idea of granting citizenship, pointing to potential security and social risks. According to Kilicdaroglu, it would be difficult to identify terrorists among such a large group of people. Syria is the hotbed of Islamic State which has carried out a number of bomb attacks in Turkey since last summer, killing scores of people. “Ghettos will be formed in big cities and this will cause tension,” Kilicdaroglu said, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

Over the past couple of weeks, confrontations between local residents and Syrian refugees in the central Anatolian town of Beysehir and the southeastern city of Urfa left two people dead and at least four other wounded. Urfa, a city with a population of nearly 2mn close to the Syrian border, hosts more than 400,000 refugees. In a similar incident in the western city of Izmir, that is home to 90,000 refugees, two local residents were stabbed following a street fight with Syrian refugees on July 12.

Echoing some concerns of Kilicdaroglu, the co-chair of the Kurdish party HDP Selahattin Demirtas warned that Erdogan’s plans may ignite further racism. Demirtas also questioned the political motive behind the proposal. “They [Erdogan and ruling AKP] are using Syrians as a tool of domestic politics,” said Demirtas, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

Turkey’s opposition parties believe Erdogan seeks to bolster support attracting the votes of Syrian refugees. Only qualified and educated Syrian refugees will be offered Turkish citizenship, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on July 11.

 A March survey by polling company Metropoll showed that 83% of Turks are against granting citizenship to Syrians, underlining the difficulty for Erdogan to sell the idea to the public.

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