Anti-refugee mayor calls on Erdoğan to permanently open border with Europe

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A mayor in northwestern Turkey who is notorious for his anti-refugee attitude has called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to open Turkey’s border with Europe permanently to allow refugees leave Turkey and seek refuge in Europe.

The call to Erdoğan was made by Tanju Özcan, mayor of the northwestern Turkish province of Bolu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“I am making a call to Mr. President. Open our border with Europe, not for 3-5 days but permanently, since we can’t protect our borders in the east [against a refugee influx]. If you do this, you will have dealt a heavy blow to the heinous plan of the US. Then I will offer you my unconditional thanks before the nation,” Özcan told Erdoğan from his Twitter account on Tuesday.

There has recently been an increase in hate speech against migrants in Turkey with a new wave of arrivals from Afghanistan via Turkey’s eastern borders due to a US decision to withdraw its troops from the country. Prominent people who have publicly welcomed migrants have been targeted and called traitors.

Some include CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who accused Erdoğan of making a deal with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels in June to accept refugees from Afghanistan following the US withdrawal.

The mayor sparked mixed reactions when he said last month 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.

Özcan made his call after an angry exchange with Afghan journalist Sunatullah Saadat on Twitter who criticized the mayor in a video due to his anti-refugee and racist statements.

Özcan said Saadat was simply a US agent acting under the cover of a journalist.

“He is just one of the CIA agents roaming our country,” claimed the mayor.

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.

Turkey is one of the main transit routes for migrants from Afghanistan and parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

Ankara concluded an agreement with the EU in 2016 aimed at curbing the flow of migrants to Europe, under which it hosts settlement camps in return for incentives such as financial assistance.

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