Investigation launched into Turkish mayor for targeting refugees

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Prosecutors have launched an investigation into an opposition mayor in northwestern Turkey who recently announced he would take radical steps to persuade refugees to leave Turkey, local media outlets reported.

Tanju Özcan, mayor of the northwestern province of Bolu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is being investigated by the Bolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on allegations of misconduct, discrimination and fomenting hatred among the public.

The investigation into Özcan was launched based on criminal complaints filed against the mayor.

Özcan sparked mixed reactions when he said on Monday an additional water and solid waste tax 10 times the normal tax would be imposed on migrants in Bolu in order to persuade them to leave.

While some rights groups and human rights activists were outraged by his remarks for being hateful against refugees, others who are uneasy about the increasing number of refugees in the country expressed support for him.

Despite the criticism, Özcan stood behind his remarks on Tuesday and said during an interview with Habertürk TV that he was simply expressing the feelings of the general public about the refugees.

“I know what my words mean. If I need to pay a price for them, I am ready to do so. I will never take a step back. … If these measures don’t work, we have additional ones in mind. But I will not reveal them now,” said Özcan.

Following a statement from the CHP on Tuesday which distanced the party from Özcan’s statements and said taking such measures against refugees does not comply with party policy, İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu also criticized the Bolu mayor for his anti-refugee remarks.

“I would never accept such a discourse [targeting refugees],” said İmamoğlu, adding that Turkey needs to quickly address the increasing number of refugees pouring into the country.

There has recently been an increase in hate speech against migrants in Turkey with a new wave of arrivals from Afghanistan. Prominent people who have publicly welcomed migrants have been targeted and called traitors.

Refugees in Turkey have been increasingly targeted by hate speech and hate crimes and are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic ills.

According to UNHCR Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.

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