Mayor's plan to charge ‘foreigners’ 10 times higher water bill sparks debate
As nationwide concerns over a potential new influx of irregular migrants have grown in recent weeks, a Turkish mayor’s controversial proposals and new statements over refugees have precipitated a fresh debate in the country.
Tanju Özcan, the mayor of the northwestern province of Bolu, said that he would propose to the province’s municipal assembly a motion to charge a tenfold fee for the water bills and solid waste taxes of foreigners, in reference to refugees who fled from Syria.
“We cut off their aid and stopped giving them business licenses to open shops, but they didn’t leave,” said Özcan, from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), during a meeting at the municipal building.
“They overstayed their welcome. I do not have the authority to force them out of the province with the municipal police,” he said, reminding that he allocated buses for free for refugees when Turkish authorities briefly opened borders to Europe for them last year.
Noting that the possible hike in bills will cover all foreign nationals living in the city, Özcan said that those who want can file a lawsuit against the practice, reminding that he is also a lawyer.
“I am not hiding anything from anyone. I know that inspectors [of the Interior Ministry] will come after these statements. I know that people will file a criminal complaint against me,” Özcan said, adding that he wouldn’t mind if someone called him a fascist.
The proposal will be discussed at the province’s municipal assembly next week.
Özcan was elected as Bolu mayor with 44 percent of the votes in the 2019 local elections and had previously come to the fore with his anti-refugee statements.
Many people on social media, including journalists and politicians, reacted to Özcan’s statements, calling him out for his discriminatory comments and what they said were racist remarks.