Bolu City Council approves exorbitant fees on foreigners to access public services and obtain marriage licenses

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The Bolu City Council has approved a proposal imposing exorbitant fees on foreigners to access public services and marry in the city, in an attempt to deter them from settling there, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported on Tuesday, citing Turkish media.

According to the decision, foreigners will be required to pay a fee of TL 100,000 (close to $8,000) for a marriage license, while it normally ranges between TL 500 ($40) and TL 1,500 ($120). Additionally, foreigners will be made to pay a $2.50 tax per 1 cubic meter of water, while Turkish citizens pay more than 10 times less.

Mayor Tanju Özcan of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has repeatedly said he would charge extra fees for foreigners who required municipal services.

Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül criticized the move on Twitter, saying everyone is equally entitled to public services.

Known for his anti-immigrant views, Özcan  previously sparked mixed reactions when he said 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.

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

Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.

Anti-migrant sentiment has also been expressed by opposition politicians. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power.

In August a group of locals attacked Syrian refugees, their houses, workplaces and cars in Ankara’s Altındağ district, chanting anti-Syrian and fascist slogans. Images on social media showed dozens of angry people throwing rocks at homes, smashing shops and cars and burning merchandise looted from shops believed to belong to Syrian refugees.

According to the latest figures provided by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Monday, Turkey is home to a total of 4,038,857 refugees from around the world. Speaking to parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee, Soylu said 3,731,028 of these were Syrian refugees who are residing in Turkey under temporary protection status. The number of refugees with international protection status is 307,829.

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