Main opposition leader calls for referendum on citizenship for refugees

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The leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has called for a referendum on whether the country should grant citizenship to people who have taken refuge in Turkey.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s suggestion came in relation to a recent statement made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said earlier this week that his government would not send Syrian refugees back to Syria.

Kılıçdaroğlu, who spoke to journalist Murat Yetkin for the yetkinreport news website, said he has doubts about Erdoğan’s intentions in not wanting to send Syrian refugees back home when the war is over because it signals a shift in his stance.

The opposition politician said he thinks Erdoğan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is losing significant public support according to recent surveys, wants the refugees to become naturalized citizens so they can vote in the elections and increase his party’s support.

“Do you want to keep your seat by granting citizenship to refugees? A government that relies on the votes of Syrians and Afghans rather than those of its own citizens cannot rule Turkey. If you want to grant citizenship to the refugees, let’s hold a referendum and ask the public. Let’s see if the public wants that,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Turkey currently hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, comprising 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees and close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities. Erdoğan, who long pursued an open-door policy toward refugees, vowed in August not to allow the country to become a “warehouse” for refugees amid growing public unhappiness with the increasing number of refugees, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles.

Erdoğan’s recent remarks signal a change of attitude toward the refugees.

In contrast to Erdoğan, Kılıçdaroğlu has pledged to send Syrian refugees back home if his party comes to power.

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.

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