Erdoğan turning blind eye to Turkey’s Syrian refugee problem - Haaretz

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s determination to keep Syrian refugees in the country helps legitimise his aims in Syria, however, Turks’ resentment for the asylum seekers is fuelling calls for their deportation, wrote Zvi Bar’el, correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

In July, reports emerged about a Turkish government crackdown on unregistered migrants in the country, particularly the city of Istanbul, which is home to more than 500,000 Syrian refugees of the over 3.6 million in Turkey.

The move coincides with increasing public frustration with the refugees, whose presence many resent during a period when the economy is stumbling and unemployment is high. 

The Istanbul governor’s office has set an Aug. 20 deadline for Syrian refugees to return to the Turkish provinces in which they were registered on arrival or face forcible return to those regions.

Turks are posting pictures of Syrians at the beach, smoking hookahs and enjoying life, to destroy the image of the downtrodden refugee that pulled at the heartstrings of Turks eight years ago, Bar’el wrote. 

The article pointed to comments by opposition İsmail Saymaz who last week said Syrians refugees were making a fool out of Turkey by leaving to visit their home country during religious holidays. 

Around 83,000 refugees went to Syria for the Eid al-Fitr holiday following the holy month of Ramadan in June, and 46,000 did so for the Eid al-Adha holiday, Saymaz said. 

"If tens of thousands of Syrians can return to Syria for holidays, why should Turks continue to support 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey? If Syria is now safe, why shouldn’t all the Syrians be deported there?” Saymaz asked.

In a country where tens of thousands of Turks have lost jobs to Syrians willing to work for less, frustration against the group is growing, Bar’el said.

Pointing out that Ankara has spent $37 billion to absorb the refugees, the article said that since their arrival unemployment have risen to 13 percent and housing prices, especially rent, have skyrocketed, leaving many Turks unable to afford housing.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has denied that Syrian refugees are being targeted in the ongoing crackdown, saying the regulations target all illegal migrants and that no Syrians have been forced back across the border.

Soylu’s remarks contradict press reports in several Turkish and international outlets, including Ahval, that quoted Syrians who said they had been transported back to Syria by Turkish authorities.

The country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is accused of creating a refugee problem through his once open door policy, has remained silent in the face of rising tension, Bar’el wrote.

According to the analyst, a large-scale return of Syrian refugees to Syria would mean the war-torn country under the rule of President Bashar Assad is now a safe country, which is a message Turkey is not ready to give due to its war on Kurds in Syria’s north.