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Municipal council approves mayor’s anti-refugee proposal

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The municipal council of the northwestern Turkish province of Bolu has approved by a majority vote a controversial proposal made by the mayor targeting refugees, Turkish media outlets reported.

Mayor Tanju Özcan from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) sparked mixed reactions when he said late in July that an additional water and solid waste tax 10 times the normal tax would be imposed on refugees 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.

The mayor’s controversial proposal was put before the municipal council, whose 14 members from the CHP and its election ally, the İYİ (Good) Party, voted to approve it.

Municipal council members from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its election ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), voted against the proposal. The proposal was sent to the planning and budget commission following its approval. After the commission’s review, the proposal will be once again discussed at the municipal council and voted on.

Özcan said during the meeting that his stance on refugees has not changed although his party made a statement distancing itself from his controversial suggestion.

“They [refugees] will go as they have come,” he said.

When council members from the AKP insisted on taking the rostrum, Özcan tossed packets of tea at them similar to what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently did in a fire-stricken region of Turkey.

“Do I have to act just like the president to calm you down? Take this tea, drink it and calm down,” Özcan said, receiving applause from the CHP members.

Erdoğan had tossed packages of tea on Saturday to a crowd he addressed in the southwestern city of Marmaris, drawing the ire of many as the act was seen as a comical handout to the disaster-stricken people who have lost their homes and livelihoods. He was also seen throwing bags from inside his bus as it drove along with his entourage.

Turkey’s southern and western coasts have been battling wildfires since last Wednesday, which have so far claimed the lives of nine people and destroyed large swaths of forests and livestock.

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