Erdogan plan to make Syrians citizens sparks online war

Opinion divided online after President Erdogan said Syrian refugees in Turkey could eventually be granted citizenship.

Syrian refugees stroll at a refugee camp in Osmaniye
About 2.7 million Syrians who fled the civil war in their country reside in Turkey [Reuters]

A hashtag targeting Syrian refugees in Turkey has trended worldwide on Twitter after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Syrian refugees could eventually be granted citizenship.

Using the hashtag #UlkemdeSuriyeliIstemiyorum (I don’t want Syrians in my country), divided opinions surfaced on Turkish social media, with tweets criticising as well as backing Erdogan’s plan.

“We’re going to help our Syrian friends in offering them the chance, if they want it, to acquire Turkish nationality,” Erdogan said late on Saturday while breaking his Ramadan fast in the Kilis province on the Syrian border. 

“Turkey is also your homeland,” he told a group of refugees in the province hosting more than 120,000 Syrians.

He added that the interior ministry was working on the proposal, without giving further details. 

About 2.7 million of more than four million people who have fled Syria’s civil war reside in Turkey.

There are mixed feelings about Syrian refugees in the country, where crimes have been blamed on them and complaints made about the increase in the number of beggars in the streets.

High unemployment rates, particularly in southeastern and eastern Turkey, the poorest regions of the country, have risen further amid the flow of refugees, creating frustration among citizens.

Attacks targeting Syrian refugees have been reported as well as fights between Syrians and Turks in large cities in western and southeastern Turkey, the region bordering Syria.

Many Turks tweeting on Sunday targeted the government and its policies on Syrian refugees, rather than the refugees themselves.

Some accused the government and Erdogan of “importing citizens” to increase his supporter base.

Translation: Citizenship is not a food package distributed by governments to get more support in elections

Ankara has refused to grant refugee status to Syrians who have crossed the border since 2011, the beginning of the Syrian conflict, referring to them as “guests”. Only a small group has been given work and residence permits.

Human rights groups say almost all the Syrians in Turkey work without permits and get paid far below the market rates.

Syrian refugees living in Turkey also got involved in the online discussion, expressing their disappointment over the hashtag. Most of the tweets stressed the fact that they were forced to come to Turkey because of the war and wished that they were back in their country.

Source: Al Jazeera