Turkish Deputy PM rules out granting Syrians citizenship before charter referendum

Turkish Deputy PM rules out granting Syrians citizenship before charter referendum

Turkish Deputy PM rules out granting Syrians citizenship before charter referendum

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Turkey would not grant Syrians citizenship before the upcoming April 16 referendum on whether to shift to an executive presidential system, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak stated on Feb. 23. 

“There are 55 million voters. If 15 or 20 Syrians become citizens and vote would the result change?” Kaynak said, while stressing that they would not grant Syrians citizenship before April 16 in order to prevent any questions in people’s minds. 

He emphasized that they would accept applications from Syrians who have passed through security checks after the referendum, while the process regarding 2,000 families has started. 

Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin had earlier said the process for granting Syrians citizenship in Istanbul had begun, as files on 2,000 people have been prepared and sent to the Interior Ministry. 

“We are now hosting 540,000 Syrian brothers in Istanbul. The government has already stated its decision for qualified Syrians to become citizens. The files for 2,000 families have been prepared sent to the Interior Ministry. Citizenship will be granted after the assessment of our ministry,” Şahin told reporters on Feb. 23, noting that work started a while ago.

“Just as Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said, it seems that the investigation of these files will take a while. The decision, of course, belongs to the ministry,” he added. 

Turkey will hold a referendum to decide whether to change from the current parliamentary system to an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers for the president.

The “Yes” vote is endorsed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are campaigning for a “No” vote. 

Speaking about granting citizenship to Syrians, Health Minister Recep Akdağ recently said he supported granting Syrian doctors citizenship. 

“I support granting citizenship to Syrians who are good at their jobs, like doctors,” Akdağ told private broadcaster NTV.

In July 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised eyebrows when he suggested that Syrians in Turkey could be granted Turkish citizenship if they filed an application and met a number of criteria. He further detailed the plans during his return trip from a NATO summit in Warsaw on July 11, 2016 suggesting that “dual citizenship” could be granted to applicants.

Erdoğan’s proposal had been slammed at the time by members of all three opposition parties at parliament in Ankara as a move aimed at garnering the votes of Syrians and tilting the sensitive demographic balance in Turkey’s southeast.