Fears among Syrian refugees in Turkey as thousands face citizenship withdrawal

Fears among Syrian refugees in Turkey as thousands face citizenship withdrawal
Reports are circulating in Turkey that thousands could have their citizenship rights revoked, stoking fears among Turkey's large Syrian refugee population.
3 min read
14 June, 2024
Syrian refugees in Turkey fear for the future as reports suggest thousands will have citizenship rights revoked [Getty]

Thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey fear they could be stripped of their Turkish citizenship amid rumours that the process has already happened to 5,000 Syrians.

Unconfirmed reports stated that lists of those whose citizenship is due to be withdrawn will be released in the coming days or weeks, and will include multiple nationalities, not just Syrians.

While there has been no official word on the claims, the report has sparked fears among Syrians with Turkish nationality amid a wave of anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey.

After the current Turkish government was formed following elections in mid-2023, a campaign to deport Syrians has been underway with President Tayyip Erdogan pledging to "voluntarily" return one million Syrian refugees to their country.

Syrians represent the largest group of refugees in Turkey and since Erdogan's re-election, tens of thousands have reportedly been forcibly returned to northern Syria.

A Syrian teacher who had obtained Turkish citizenship spoke anonymously to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed regarding his fears.

"Why revoke citizenship without any legal basis? If taking away citizenship is so easy, who will ensure that citizenship won’t be withdrawn from all Syrians if the government in Turkey changes, and a party comes in that doesn’t welcome them?" 

However, Turkish lawyer Abdulkadir Fleifel said that "citizenship won't be revoked after being granted except if the papers are inauthentic or forged, or due to issues related to state security. Otherwise, the holder of citizenship will be held accountable for violations or crimes committed after obtaining citizenship in the same way as any Turkish citizen".

According to a 2009 ruling, the Turkish government can revoke citizenship if applicants provided false information or documentation in their applications.

Other grounds included  working for a foreign country against Turkey's interests, serving a hostile country during war, doing military service in a foreign country without permission, committing serious crimes, or carrying out acts on behalf of terrorists or funding them.

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Ahmed Hassan, a researcher specialised in Turkish affairs told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that since the current government was formed, Minister of Interior Ali Yerlikaya has adopted what he calls "a correctional line" on citizenship and residency permits.

He has launched investigations into citizenship applications and cases where citizenship has been granted, to address instances in which fake documentation was used, or other violations have been committed, says Hassan.

For those informed that their citizenship has been withdrawn, Hassan says they will have a three-month window in which to appoint lawyers to make an application to restore their citizenship.  

The New Arab reached out to the Turkish embassy in London for comment.

This article is based on an article which appeared in our Arabic edition by Adnan Abdul Razzaq on 14 June 2024. To read the original article click here.