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As Turkey’s financial disaster grows, politicians spar over refugees


Istanbul, Turkey – Amid a deepening financial disaster in Turkey, anger is rising in the direction of the tens of millions of refugees living within the nation, with tensions threatening to spill over in current weeks.

Videos of enormous teams of international nationals hanging out in varied locations of Istanbul are being shared with rising frequency on Twitter, with 1000’s of individuals taking to social media to precise alarm and calling for refugees to be despatched again to their international locations.

Some Turks additionally accuse Syrians of “stealing” their jobs and being chargeable for rising rental costs, as inflation soars and the worth of the lira slumps. Polls point out that the huge majority of Turkish residents now need refugees to be despatched home.

Analysts say politicians are more and more seizing on this resentment and utilizing it for political acquire forward of Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections resulting from happen in June 2023.

According to current Interior Ministry figures, Turkey is home to greater than 4 million refugees, 3.76 million of that are Syrians. The nation additionally hosts tons of of 1000’s of Afghan refugees.

Opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) declare that these figures are vastly underreported.

Among these critics is Umit Ozdag, a parliamentarian previously of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AK Party’s present coalition accomplice. Ozdag was booted out of the social gathering in 2016, becoming a member of the opposition right-wing Good Party (IYI) the following 12 months earlier than breaking away to kind his personal social gathering, the Victory Party, in August 2021.

Under the slogan “Victory will come to power, all refugees and illegals will go”, the social gathering’s recognition has grown. They declare – with out proof – that there are greater than eight million refugees at the moment in Turkey, which might quantity to about 10 p.c of the nation’s inhabitants.

The social gathering lately commissioned a brief fictional movie referred to as Silent Invasion which is ready in 2043 and depicts a Turkey the place a Syrian political social gathering is newly elected to energy, pledging to make Arabic the official language of the nation. In the movie, a Turkish man is harassed by Syrians on the road and compelled to run for canopy after they chase after him. Planning on turning into a health care provider, he as an alternative works as a hospital janitor and tells his dad and mom that it’s unlawful to talk Turkish at his office. The movie has greater than 4 million views on YouTube since its launch on May 3.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has blasted the movie, dubbing it a provocation and a direct assault in opposition to the federal government.

Ozdag responded by calling on Soylu to fulfill him on the entrance of the Interior Ministry in Ankara, saying “you’ll wait for me there if you’re a man” – fuelling the disagreement between the 2 politicians and amplifying the refugee subject, which has already featured prominently in Turkey’s information agenda for weeks.

The chief of the principle opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has additionally promised to ship Syrians again if elected.

“Them staying in Turkey and their number being very high is actually a risk for Turkey, and it is a risk for them as well, this needs to be fixed. These people need to live in their own country, within their own culture, freely and with their safety ensured,” Kilicdaroglu stated in a press release final month.

For its half, the federal government has taken a softer line on refugees.

“[Refugees] can return to their countries when they wish, but we will not kick them out,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on May 9.

Erdogan had stated final week that they have been making ready for the voluntary return of 1 million Syrians and pledged to construct 200,000 properties in northern Syria to facilitate their return.

Selim Koru, an analyst on the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, advised Al Jazeera that the refugee query has turn out to be “hugely significant” and is “upending the political debate”.

“A lot of [problems], from education to security, are being pegged to the presence of [mostly] poor foreigners in Turkey. The only question to my mind is the extent to which the economy is going to be pegged to immigrants/refugees,” Koru stated.

“So is the [argument] saying ‘we’re poor because we’re badly governed’ going to get subsumed by ‘we’re poor because we let these people in?’” Koru stated.

Ozdag insists that his social gathering shouldn’t be racist however says refugees ought to return to their international locations for financial and cultural causes – a stance reiterated by the social gathering’s Istanbul provincial chairman Hakan Aksit.

“A guy is Syrian, a guy is Afghan, they have their own culture, their own language, their own family structure. Those should not be spoiled. For that reason, we want to send them back happily to their countries as soon as possible,” Aksit advised Al Jazeera.

Cem Oyvat, a senior lecturer in economics on the University of Greenwich, is essential of the Victory Party’s view that sending refugees home will repair the economic system.

“It cannot be a coincidence that the reactions against immigrants are rising exactly at the period that the official yearly inflation rate hits 70 percent,” Oyvat advised Al Jazeera. “However, it’s hard to list immigrants as one of the main causes of the cost-of-living crisis in Turkey. Turkey is currently not experiencing a demand-led inflation.”

“The Turkish economy has been dependent on hot money flows and is associated with high current account deficits long before the start of the Syrian War,” he added.

“Under these conditions, the Erdogan government shifted to an extremely low interest policy which led to a series of shocks on the Turkish lira starting from 2018. The latest depreciation of the lira followed by the declining policy rates led to the doubling of USD/TRY exchange rate within 14 months, which eventually was reflected on the consumer prices in Turkey.”

If anti-refugee sentiment continues to rise within the lead-up to the 2023 elections, the rising development of violence in the direction of refugees may very well be additional exacerbated and the federal government must justify its insurance policies to an more and more indignant public.

With the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees now settled in Turkish society, Koru says it’s unlikely that vital numbers will return to Syria voluntarily and that there’s an “overwhelming economic interest in keeping refugees” as they drive down labour prices.

“So the question here is who can exert greater pressure on the government: business or the electorate,” he stated. “So far, the response has been ‘business’.”


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