How realistic is Turkey’s plan to send Syrian refugees back? – columnist

Turkey’s plans to send Syrian refugees back home has raised questions whether President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s project is realistic or not, Global Voices columnist Arzu Geybullayeva said.

“The decision is largely viewed as a tactical step for the president, given that Turkey, marred by internal economic challenges is headed to presidential and parliamentary elections”, Geybullayeva said on Sunday.

Turkey is working on a project to facilitate the voluntary return of some 1 million Syrian refugees, Erdoğan said last week, signalling a strong change of tone in his government’s long-held pro-migrant policy. In March, Erdoğan vowed to allow Syrian refugees to stay in the country, saying that Turkey would continue to be a safe harbour for the oppressed, condemning the stance of the opposition parties regarding the issue.

“With elections a year away, rights and aid groups fear Syrian refugees are becoming scapegoats in national politics,” the analyst said.

Opposition parties in Turkey, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), are campaigning around the Syrian refugees ahead of elections scheduled for 2023, promising to send them back in a few years time if they win the office.

The return envisaged by the ruling party is rather unrealistic, according to Geybullayeva, who cited experts on the matter.

“Finding 1 million Syrians to voluntarily return doesn’t seem very realistic at all. They don’t see a future in Syria, the war there has become chronic, they don’t trust (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad, Turkey is a better place, they set up a life here,” Murat Erdoğan, a fellow of the Center for Applied Turkey at the German Institute for International and Security Studies, told the New York Times.

“It is unlikely that the ruling party would come up with a solution to the refugee crisis, which has so many interwoven components, both domestically and internationally,” the columnist cited anthropologist Ayşe Çavdar, speaking to Al-Monitor.

Human rights organizations are also wary of this “voluntary” return policy, according to Geybullayeva.

Turkey is home to some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest contingent in the world. They arrived following the civil war that erupted in 2011. However, Syrians in Turkey been faced with a wave of xenophobia, with anti-refugee sentiment being bolstered by the country’s high unemployment rate and ailing economy. The community has been the target of several violent attacks in recent years. 

More than 65 percent of Turks want the Syrian refugees living in Turkey to go back home, according to a February survey by the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV).

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