Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks to grant citizenship to some 300,000 Syrians who could travel to Europe when the European Union grants Turkey visa-free access.
Turkey has felt the brunt of much of the great migration of the Syrian people as many have gone through the country to Europe over the last year and many have stayed in the country. The Turkish government and president Erdogan are now coming to the realization that the Syrians may never go back to their home country and the Turkish leader is proposing a controversial plan to naturalize over 300,000 Syrians to become Turkish citizens and hold Turkish passports
The Turkish government and president Erdogan are now coming to the realization that the Syrians may never go back to their home country and the Turkish leader is proposing a controversial plan to naturalize over 300,000 Syrians to become Turkish citizens and hold Turkish passports reports Tagesspiegel.
Erdogan’s Premier Binali Yıldırım claims that the move is a turning point for the Turkish approach to the Syrian civil war and the migrant crisis. Previously the Turkish government had held a firm stance that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must step down and negotiations between the two governments have virtually come to a total halt. Now the policy seems to be changing as Yıldırım claims now Ankara merely wants Assad to change his “attitude,” recognizing that previous Turkish policy had failed.
The plan to make 300,000 Syrians Turkish passport holders has not come without criticism. Some see the act as a way for Erdogan to create a bloc of 300,000 voters to push his centralization of power. Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been especially critical of the move saying that Erdogan should take the issue to a referendum as polls show the majority of Turks oppose the idea.
While some are calling the plan a way for Turkey to further stem the flow of migrants into Europe, the EU-Turkey deal has visa-free access for Turkish citizens as a stipulation for the agreement to be upheld. If the 300,000 Syrians become Turkish passport holders there is theoretically nothing that can be done to stop them moving en masse to western Europe and seeking asylum when they get there.
Some politicians in Europe have already warned that the visa-free travel for Turkish citizens could lead to a new wave of migration. Groups like the minority Kurds in southern Turkey are often caught between the fighting of the Turkish government and Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK) forces. Horst Seehofer, ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, claimed that visa-free access could lead to potentially millions of Turks seeking asylum in Europe.
Tensions between Syrians and Turks are also on the rise after an incident days ago in which a young Turk and a young Syrian died from stab wounds after a confrontation. The event led to Turkish protesters demanding the expulsion of all Syrians from the region in Anatolia.