The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has reiterated an earlier pledge and said if his party comes to power, Syrian refugees in Turkey will be sent back home in two years at the latest, Turkish media outlets reported.
“We will send our Syrian sisters and brothers to their country with [fanfare] in two years at the latest. We want them to go to home willingly,” said CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, adding that his future government would prepare the groundwork for the departure of the Syrians.
He was speaking at an event on Monday in the southern border province of Hatay, which has a significant Syrian refugee population.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks come at a time of increased violence and hate crimes targeting the country’s more than 4 million refugees, most of whom are Syrians who sought shelter in neighboring Turkey as they fled the ongoing civil war in their country.
The refugees are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles.
The latest example of a hate crime targeting refugees took place last week in İstanbul’s Bayrampaşa district, when a group of unidentified assailants posing as police raided an apartment where several young Syrian refugee men were living and killed a 19-year-old.
The victim, Naif Elnaif, was stabbed to death while asleep.
In yet another incident in early January, a mob attacked the properties of Syrian refugees in İstanbul’s Esenyurt district. Images shared on social media showed the mob throwing rocks at stores and entering through broken windows, shouting, “This is Turkey.”
Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets as well as politicians like Kılıçdaroğlu are accused of fueling and exploiting the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.
According to the latest figures provided by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November, 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.