Turkey's Erdogan says refugees will not be forced back to war-torn countries
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said refugees will not be forced back to their war-torn home countries after Turkey's main opposition party criticised the presence of 4 million refugees in the country.
Speaking at the International Benevolence Awards ceremony in Ankara, Erdogan on Tuesday took a pro-refugee line and told the Turkish public not to worry about the burden of hosting refugees.
It comes after calls by some sections of the Turkish opposition to return Syrian refugees to their home country despite the mounting dangers they would face there.
"We will not send (them) back. We will continue to host (them). We are not worried about it," he said regarding the refugees that Turkey hosts, mainly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan but more recently, Ukraine.
Erdogan's remarks appeared to be in response to Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu call for the deportation of Syrian refugees.
His party has made Turkey's refugee policy a focus of its campaign ahead of elections due to be held in 2023.
Throughout his campaign, Kilicdaroglu repeatedly proclaimed that all Syrian and Afghan refugees will be returned if his party wins the 2023 elections.
According to the interior ministry, Turkey currently hosts 4 million refugees, 3.7 million of whom are Syrians.
Syrians have faced widespread hostility in Turkey, where politicians have capitalised on anti-refugee sentiments and racism as the country gears up for elections.
Earlier this month, Turkey and Jordan's foreign ministers pledged to work together to encourage the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.
Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint press conference with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi that Turkey will "host a conference on the ministerial level on this issue".
Syria is deemed as unsafe for return by the UN, human rights groups, and the vast majority of countries in Europe.
Returnees have been detained and disappeared by Syrian regime security forces while there are huge problems of insecurity and extreme poverty across the country.