Turkey presidential candidate vows to deport Syrians in two years if he beats Erdogan

Turkey presidential candidate vows to deport Syrians in two years if he beats Erdogan
Turkish politicians have long used the Syrian refugee crisis in their country for political gain.
2 min read
16 March, 2023
Kilicdaroglu is the opposition's candidate in Turkish presidential elections due to take place in May [Getty/archive]

The Turkish opposition's presidential candidate renewed threats on Tuesday to deport Syrian refugees within two years if he beats President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in upcoming presidential elections.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People's Party (CHP) vowed to send all Syrians back to their country if he wins the race to become president in May as he visited the Turkish-Syrian border.

"I've reached the Zero Point of the border. I have come to tell my nation that I remain determined on an issue. My presidency has two important goals: The first is to bring the Syrians back to their homeland," he said from the border region, then later in a series of tweets.

His second goal, he said, was to send Afghan refugees who entered Turkey via Iran back to Iran.

"We have to give our streets and neighbourhoods back to their owners. However, we have to do this carefully and without racism," he said.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Turkey has hosted over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, and Ankara has been directly involved in the war.

But anti-refugee sentiments have been on the rise in recent years, with many Turkish nationals blaming Syrians for their country's economic troubles and politicians, such as Kilicdaroglu, using the refugee issue as a political tool.

"For us, the issue is very simple: Border security is national security. Border security is the most fundamental and necessary responsibility of a sovereign nation. Those who cannot protect their borders cannot be sovereign," Kilicdaroglu added.

"In summary, we will say goodbye to our Syrian guests in two years. I will close the border to all kinds of illegal crossings in the first week of my presidency."

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Turkish authorities have in recent years forcibly returned thousands of Syrians back to their country in violation of international law.

Following the powerful 7.8 earthquake last month which devastated large swathes of southeast Turkey and northwest Syria, Turkish authorities said that thousands of Syrians had "voluntarily" returned to their country. Rights groups have disputed the "voluntary" nature of these returns.

Kilicdaroglu sent a condolence letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following the 6 February earthquake.

Assad's regime has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions more since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, with the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests.