Representatives of two Turkish opposition parties have voiced their criticism of a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plan to provide Turkish citizenship to around 3 million Syrian refugees, saying the government’s plan amounted to “political populism,” while questioning the motives behind the move.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Secretary General Kamil Okyay Sındır said the government’s arguments for the plan were unacceptable, while Mehmet Günal, the deputy head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), warned such a move would discourage Syrians from going back to their countries.
The criticism from both parties about the ruling AKP government’s intention to give Turkish citizenship to Syrian refugees was voiced during the visit of an MHP delegation to the CHP’s headquarters.
Sındır underlined the importance of having peace in Syria and said, “We do not find it correct to provide citizenship to refugees while hiding behind other political thoughts.”
Günal reminded that many Turkish-origin migrants had several unresolved problems. “Their problems have remained unsolved since the 1990s. While those citizenship problems of Turkish-origin people continue, you start talking about giving citizenship to Syrians. This looks to us like political populism,” he said.
A new law is required to enable Syrians to become Turkish citizen, said Günal, adding there was a need of analysis from sociologists and other experts before taking such a decision.
“We are wondering whether this [citizenship issue] is part of the negotiations. Is there something else behind the scenes of the deals done with Russia
and Israel? That’s what we thought when this issue came to the agenda in such a rush. Syria needs to normalize. Some of the Syrians need to go back. If you start talking about this, even those who are planning to go back, won’t go back. It was wrong in terms of substance and timing,” said Günal.
Sındır recalled that the government used the argument the refugees who will be given citizenship constituted a “qualified work force” and continued:
“That means you are discriminating. That means you are in the understanding of not treating a refugee as a treaty but as someone to benefit from. We have many unemployed qualified workers, in all fields. When we have so many jobless qualified people in health, engineering and several other areas and as if we lack human resources, the government is trying to push the argument that the Syrian refugees will provide the human resources. This is not acceptable. We should not compromise from human rights and freedoms, both on domestic issues but on the Syrian refugee issues as well.”
Separately, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli also voiced criticism on the issue.
“When Syria will find peace one day, it will be a national duty for them [refugees] to go back to their countries. Those who would prefer to stay in Syria would be fugitives. It would be a great contradiction for a person who has lost the qualification of being a Syrian citizen to have the qualification of being a Turkish citizen. Let’s continue to help them but let’s not run after small calculations,” he said.