Far-right, anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP) leader Ümit Özdağ has claimed that the real number of Syrians who had acquired Turkish citizenship as of July 2022 is nearly seven times the recently announced official figure, local media reported on Saturday.
Özdağ said at a press meeting on Saturday that more than 1.4 million Syrians had been granted Turkish citizenship as of July, nearly seven times the official figure, which was announced to be 211,000 a day earlier.
— Ümit Özdağ (@umitozdag) August 20, 2022
In televised remarks on Friday, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that among the more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey only 211,000 have acquired Turkish citizenship so far and that 120,000 of them were eligible to vote, while the remainder were minors.
Contradicting the figures announced by the minister, Özdağ on Saturday claimed that the real number of Syrians who had acquired Turkish citizenship was 1,476,368, adding that there were 13 million asylum seekers and irregular migrants in the country in total.
The VP leader said the data he shared with the public was included in official documents and that he had confirmed them from various sources, adding that “the probability of [them] being wrong is zero.”
The figures provided by the government about the Syrians eligible to vote in Turkey are often disputed by the opposition parties, which criticize President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) due to their open-door policy toward refugees. The opposition parties accuse the AKP government of facilitating the naturalization of refugees so they can vote for the AKP in elections.
Turkey is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023.
Public surveys show the AKP, which has been ruling Turkey as a single-party government since 2002, as losing significant support amid the country’s economic woes.
Turkey has welcomed nearly 5 million refugees in total, including Syrians and Afghans, but their presence has caused tensions with locals, especially as the country is in economic turmoil with a weak lira and soaring energy and food prices.
Turkey is one of the countries where foreigners can acquire citizenship by means of investment.
Members of a foreign family are granted Turkish citizenship if they buy a property with a price of $400,000. It was only $250,000 before June, when changes to a regulation on the requirements for the acquisition of Turkish citizenship by means of investment went into effect.