Istanbul, Turkey – As Turks put together to move to the polls for a presidential run-off, thousands and thousands of Syrian refugees within the nation are watching anxiously, unsure about how the result may form their future.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu will face off Sunday within the second spherical of the vote after neither secured a majority within the first on Could 14. Erdogan received 49.5 % and Kilicdaroglu 44.9 %.
Immigration has been a central problem within the elections. The marketing campaign has seen a number of opposition politicians pledging to expel refugees and migrants whereas the federal government has highlighted its plans to press forward with what it calls “voluntarily” repatriations of Syrians.
In keeping with the United Nations, Turkey has taken in 3.7 million refugees, greater than every other nation on the earth. Within the yr main as much as the polls, stress grew on refugees and migrants, particularly Syrians, throughout an financial disaster with hovering inflation, a plunging lira and a deepening cost-of-living crunch.
The scenario has left many Syrians in Turkey deeply nervous about their future within the nation.
“I don’t know what’s going to occur after the election,” stated Habib, 23, whose title has been modified to guard his id.
“They [politicians] say they wish to ship all Syrians again. All of us undergo from nervousness on this interval,” stated the person who was displaced eight years in the past by Syria’s battle and presently resides in Istanbul.
In keeping with the United Nations refugee company, the overwhelming majority of refugees in Turkey – 3.6 million – are Syrian dwelling underneath “momentary safety standing”. About 200,000 Syrians have been given Turkish citizenship for the reason that Syrian battle erupted in 2011, in line with authorities figures.
Whereas Turkey initially welcomed the refugees, supplied shelter and entry to training with billions of euros in European Union funding, anti-refugee sentiment has grown in recent times, and refugees have turn out to be scapegoats for Turkey’s financial troubles, which has sometimes led to violence.
Muhammad Siddik Yasar, who runs the Tarlabaşı Solidarity Affiliation, a refugee solidarity group in Istanbul, stated anti-refugee sentiment sharpened within the run-up to the elections.
“Being a refugee means that you’re right here at the moment, however you haven’t any assure for tomorrow,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
“Persons are asking us what to do. They’re afraid that racism will improve after the election. I’ve been working with refugees for a few years, and I’ve by no means seen something like this yr,” he stated.
The rising anti-refugee sentiment manifested itself on the poll field within the first spherical of the elections as nationalists delivered a robust efficiency, notably the far-right nationalist presidential candidate Sinan Ogan, who received an sudden 5.2 % of the vote.
Ogan ran because the candidate of the ATA (Ancestral) Alliance, led by the anti-migrant, ultranationalist Victory Occasion. He has since endorsed Erdogan.
“Ogan is an fascinating and necessary phenomenon in Turkish politics,” stated Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Analysis Program on the Washington Institute for Close to East Coverage.
“He rallied on one problem solely, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant platform. With no media entry, no rallies and no cash principally, he received 5 %,” Cagaptay stated.
For the reason that first spherical, Kilicdaroglu, who’s backed by a broad coalition of opposition events, has doubled down on his place concerning deportations.
“Erdogan, you didn’t defend the borders and honour of our nation,” he stated final week. “As quickly as I come to energy, I’ll ship all refugees residence.”
Going through opposition assaults on immigration, the federal government has pressed forward with talks with Damascus in what seems to sign a warming of ties.
This month, the overseas ministers of Turkey, Syria and Iran met in Moscow as a part of the Kremlin’s efforts to dealer a rapprochement between the Turkish and Syrian governments after years of antagonism over Syria’s battle and a number of Turkish army operations in northern Syria.
For his half, al-Assad has demanded that Turkey withdraw from the territories underneath its management in northwest Syria.
The talks had been held as a number of regional leaders have moved to normalise ties with al-Assad. In mid-Could, Syria was readmitted to the Arab League after its membership had been suspended for greater than a decade.
Kilicdaroglu has stated he intends to revive ties with al-Assad whereas Erdogan has beforehand stated he could meet al-Assad for talks.
Apart from strikes in the direction of a possible rapprochement, Erdogan’s authorities has pushed on with its plan for refugees to “resettle voluntarily” in areas in Syria underneath Turkish safety management.
“Now we have constructed greater than 100,000 homes for [refugees] in northern Syria,” Erdogan stated this month at a gathering of younger folks in his Justice and Improvement Occasion (AK Occasion). “Regularly, Syrian refugees started to settle in these residences.”
“There isn’t a time restrict on this problem,” Erdogan added. “We give our greatest to help and help them on this regard.”
In keeping with Turkey’s inside ministry, almost 58,000 Syrians returned to their residence nation from November 2021 to October final yr.
In a 2022 report, Human Rights Watch documented lots of of deportations from February to July final yr, which the federal government said had been voluntary departures.
Many Syrians are cautious in regards to the prospect of returning to their residence nation because the battle there continues. Habib stated he fears being drafted into the military if he had been to return to Syria.
“If I’m transferred to Bashar [al-Assad], I’d be in a really vital situation, and my household wouldn’t have anybody to help them,” he stated.
Salim Cevik, a researcher on the Centre for Utilized Turkey Research on the German Institute for Worldwide and Safety Affairs, stated there was “no simple and fast answer to Turkey’s migration problem”.
“There isn’t a repatriation coverage doable any time quickly,” he stated. “The extra practical coverage would in all probability discover methods to combine them into Turkish society. However that is one thing that no politician can say in public.”