İstanbul’s newly elected mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, has expressed his approval of a measure by the Interior Ministry to move Syrian refugees not registered in the megacity to their original province of registration, the Ahval news website reported on Monday.
“Sending Syrians who are not registered [in the city] out of İstanbul is a necessary step. Society can no longer bear this burden,’’ Deutsche Welle Turkish service quoted İmamoğlu as saying.
İmamoğlu’s statement comes as Turkish authorities intensify a crackdown on Syrian refugees. The İstanbul Governor’s Office last week set an Aug. 20 deadline for Syrian refugees to return to the Turkish provinces in which they were registered on arrival or face forcible return to those regions, a move that has caused panic among Syrians living in the city.
Some 500,000 of Turkey’s 3.6 million registered refugees live in İstanbul, and a further 200,000 are believed to live in the city but hold registration elsewhere in the country.
İmamoğlu said the government has managed the issue of Syrian refugees poorly from the very beginning.
“How did we get to this point? Why were precautions not taken? These are the questions that should be asked,” İmamoğlu said.
The İstanbul mayor also pledged to examine and effectively deal with the problems facing refugees in the city.
Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week accused Turkey of detaining and coercing Syrians into signing “voluntary return” forms and then forcibly returning them to northern Syria, an area that is currently a war zone.
Turkey has denied the charges, claiming its measures are aimed at preventing illegal migration.