Turkish Deputy PM strictly dismisses defining Syrians as ‘local population’

Turkish Deputy PM strictly dismisses defining Syrians as ‘local population’

Turkish Deputy PM strictly dismisses defining Syrians as ‘local population’

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Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş categorically denied considering Syrian refugees in Turkey as part of “local population,” calling the prospect “out of the question.”

“Too much speculations are being made about the [Syrian] refugees. ‘They will be granted citizenship, they will be like this; they will be like that,’” Kurtulmuş said late April 11, when asked about media reports suggesting that Syrian refugees living in Turkey would be considered as part of the “local population” through an amendment made in the Law on Metropolitan Municipalities upon a demand by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“Let me say this very openly; deeming the Syrian refugees local population is out of question,” Kurtulmuş said, as he was speaking in his capacity as the government’s spokesperson in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. 

“For example, Kilis has more Syrian refugees than its own population. Şanlıurfa is hosting 530,000 refugees. These provinces of ours have been self-sacrificing, sharing their bread with a full understanding of the Ansar [People from Madinah who gave support to Prophet Mohammed]. Therefore, from time to time, studies have been carried out to decrease additional burdens in these provinces. For example, some contributions have been made from AFAD [the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of the Prime Ministry]. We have been systematically running efforts that will ease this burden. It is about not leaving the burden of Syrian refugees solely on the provinces. As for the issue of [defining refugees as] ‘local citizen,’ that is entirely speculation,” Kurtulmuş said.

Last week, Karar daily reported that the government will amend the Law on Metropolitan Municipalities upon Davutoğlu’s order to enable counting Syrian refugees as “local population.” Accordingly, state funds allotted for the province from the central budget will increase, as well their share from İller Bankası, a state organization that supports provinces, Karar reported, citing remarks by Ahmet Eşref Fakıbaba, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) executive in charge of local governance portfolios. 

Fakıbaba told Karar that the related amendment would be sent to parliament during the ongoing working season of the national assembly. 

Noting discussions of Syrian refugees’ “social integration” along with other aspects of the refugee issue during their cabinet meeting, Kurtulmuş said, “Within this framework, efforts to be conducted in our provinces of Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Hatay, Kilis and Mardin, -- which welcomed Syrian refugees with open arms and really great hospitality considering [the number of Syrian refugees] in these particular five cities the proportion [of refugees] to their populations, -- have been dealt with a separate perspective.”