Up to 300,000 Syrians could get Turkish citizenship: Report
ISTANBUL – Agence France-Presse
Up to 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey could be given citizenship under a plan to keep wealthy and educated Syrians in the country, Turkish daily Habertürk reported on July 9, soon after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inflammatory remarks suggesting Syrians could be extended citizenship.
Nationality would be given step-by-step, with initial plans for 30,000 to 40,000 Syrians gaining citizenship, Habertürk said, adding Ankara was targeting to give Turkish citizenship to up to 300,000 Syrians.
Turkey was hoping such a move would allow skilled Syrian refugees to become citizens, the paper said. Educated refugees from other countries could choose to become nationals as well.
Family members of those chosen to become Turkish citizens could also get the right to become nationals, it added.
The usual obligation of living in Turkey for at least five years before gaining citizenship could be waived for Syrians, the daily reported.
Syrian refugees who become Turkish nationals would then be able to vote in elections one year after being granted nationality.
The report appeared to generate anger among many social media users, with #suriyelilerehayir (“No to Syrians”) the top trending topic in Turkey on Twitter on July 9.
Erdoğan said on July 2 that Syrian refugees in the country would be offered nationality “if they want it,” the first time such an idea had been proposed at the highest level.
The president’s plan was rebuked by opposition parties as a populist bid for political gains by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to garner additional votes from Syrians.
“The AKP is clearly showing that it is thinking of its political prosperity rather than the lives of these oppressed people by looking from the viewpoint of religion and sect, its election calculations and its assimilation plans. The fact that some 3 million people could suddenly become citizens would create trauma in society,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Veli Ağbaba said.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy chair Semih Yalçın also voiced concern that the move could mean 3 million more voters.
“First of all, [it] would change the demographic structure in southeastern Anatolia. In a political meaning, 3 million people equals 10 percent [of the total] vote,” Yalçın said.
In a similar vein, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HPD) Kars deputy Ayhan Bilgen warned that creating constituents through cheap labor would only deepen already existing prejudices against refugees.