Leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has promised to send Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey back home in cooperation with the European Union and Mediterranean countries if he is elected to the top state post in upcoming elections.
Kılıçdaroğlu released a four-minute video on Twitter with the note “Refugees. Illegal migrants.” on Tuesday in which he said Turkey’s refugee issue wasn’t a problem of “race” but of “resources.”
Sığınmacılar. Kaçaklar. pic.twitter.com/q9flGYHWcw
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) May 2, 2023
He explained that if the necessary precautions aren’t taken, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers face the risk of drying up within the next 20 years, which would mean that agriculture in Turkey’s southeastern region would be affected, hydroelectric power plants would lose their functionality and a severe water shortage would be experienced, with both Turkey and its southern neighbors, Syria and Iraq, facing the risk of famine and drought.
The CHP leader said such a situation would cause refugees from Syria and Iraq to flood into Turkey, which is unable to bear such a burden since its water, energy and infrastructure aren’t even capable of meeting the needs of its own people.
“If Turkey loses its own infrastructure and water, Europe must understand that we can’t even keep our own citizens [in the country], let alone these refugees and migrants. The European Union must abandon the mindset of ‘I paid a bribe and got rid of [the refugees],'” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He was referring to a migrant deal signed in March 2016. According to the deal, Turkey would keep asylum seekers from reaching the EU or, if they do, the EU would be able to send them back to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey would receive 6 billion euros to improve the humanitarian situation faced by refugees in the country.
Kılıçdaroğlu further stated that Turkey must cooperate with the EU and the Mediterranean countries, the area that is experiencing the most severe effects of the climate crisis, heating up 20 percent more than the rest of the world, to solve the refugee issue.
“We will negotiate with the Syrian government. We will establish a protocol with the legitimate government for the safety of life and property for those who will return from here, and the European Union and the United Nations will be involved in this protocol,” the CHP leader said.
He ended the video by addressing the EU and the Mediterranean countries, saying that it’s up to them to either learn to work together on the issues of the climate change and refugees, or perish together.
Turkey hosts nearly 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled civil war and were registered under temporary protection as of April 2023, according to official figures.
Refugees in Turkey are frequently targeted by Turkish politicians, who hold them responsible for the social and economic problems in the country.
Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.
In its election campaign, the opposition bloc including Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP outlined a four-step solution to the migrant crisis in Turkey, with the first step being making peace with the country’s neighbors and “sitting down” with the Syrian government.
Despite calls from Turkey’s opposition parties and the Turkish government’s policies, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in September that Syria was not safe for refugees to return to.
The commission said it continued to document serious violations of human rights and that arbitrary detention and torture remained systematic in government-controlled areas.