Erdoğan details dual citizenship for Syrians

Erdoğan details dual citizenship for Syrians

Verda Özer – WARSAW
Erdoğan details dual citizenship for Syrians President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has detailed his plans to offer citizenship to nearly 3 million Syrians taking refuge in Turkey during his return trip from a NATO summit in Warsaw, suggesting that dual citizenship may be granted to applicants. 

“We will predicate the regulations on dual citizenship. Is it a must for dual citizens, for people with citizenship, to return to their countries of birth?” Erdoğan inquired in response to a question about worries that Syrians might never return to their country if provided with Turkish citizenship. 

Providing the examples of the United States and Germany, Erdoğan said it was up to people to make a choice between their countries of citizenship. “No one asked [Turks] whether they would return or not when they went [to Germany] in 1963,” Erdoğan said.

“There is no need to hesitate. This nation currently lives in 780,000 square kilometers as 79 million people. Germany, which is half our size, is currently 85 million,” the president said, stressing Turkey could “easily work out” problems of this sort. 

Erdoğan also criticized the negative stance of opposition parties on the issue of Syrians and stressed Turkey could not confine refugees to a life in camps and the basements of apartments.

“Our municipalities tell me all sorts of things. There are nine, 10, 15 people, living chock-full inside basements,” Erdoğan said, stressing it was better for Turkish ministries to collaborate and find camps or houses to resettle Syrians inside Turkey.

The president proposed settling the Syrians in apartments built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) which ended up remaining unoccupied due to disagreements.

Erdoğan reminded about Meskhetian Turks, a Turkish-speaking minority from eastern Ukraine who were expelled from their homeland in Georgia and moved to Ukraine. They were recently resettled to TOKİ apartments in Turkey in the northeastern province of Erzincan and the southeastern province of Bitlis. 

“If need be, there are the empty TOKİ apartments. Just the way we gave them to the Meskhetian Turks in Erzincan – which they will pay for by instalments - we can do the same for them within the framework of a settlement and employment policy. 

“Today, a Turk can go to Germany and become a German citizen; [a Turk] can go to the U.S. and become an American citizen; why can’t the same be possible for people living in our country?” Erdoğan asked, stressing Turks even had a shared history with Syrians.

Erdoğan stirred debate on July 2 when he said Syrians in Turkey could be granted Turkish citizenship if they filed an application and met a number of criteria.

The proposition was slammed by members of all three opposition parties represented in parliament in Ankara as a populist political move aimed at garnering the votes of Syrians and tilting the sensitive demographic balance in Turkey’s southeast.