Turkish opposition leader vows to return Syrian refugees, restore ties with Assad regime
Turkey's opposition leader has pledged to return Syrians living in Turkey back to their country, if he is successful in taking power.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People's Party, said in a video published on his Twitter account that in addition to returning Syrian refugees, he would reopen respective embassies in both countries and restore relations with Bashar al-Assad's regime "within two years" of coming into office.
"There are big complaints from citizens who do not have jobs or income, and that is due to the presence of Syrians, and during the coming period we may face bigger problems that have no solution and we must solve the problem," he claimed in the video clip that has been viewed over half a million times.
Turkey is playing host to around 3.6 million Syrian refugees that have fled brutal fighting in their homeland.
Turkey has also been militarily involved in the fighting in northwestern Syria, and has supported Syrian opposition groups who have taken control of large parts of northern Syria.
Many of the areas targeted by Turkish-back forces were predominately Kurdish, prompting accusations of ethnic cleansing and forced demographic change.
İktidarımızda Suriyeli misafirlerimizle helalleşip iki yılda memleketlerine uğurlayacağız. Bu iktidarımızın en önemli beş önceliğinden biridir. Plan ve programlarımız hazır. Bu video da bunun taahhüdü olarak burada dursun istedim. pic.twitter.com/5kE4csutCo— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) July 16, 2021
In his video, Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that Syrians in the state of Şanliurfa would work for half the wages of Turkish workers, putting many of them out of work.
"Go to Istanbul, Izmir, Kayseri, Hatay, Gaziantep, and Kilis, and you will find many of these widespread problems there," he said.
The opposition leader went on to lambast the European Union for complaining about the flow of refugees from Turkey, but failing to fund the building of infrastructure that would allow Syrians to return to their country.
"I told them: Put your hands on your pockets and build schools, hospitals, infrastructure and roads, and then we will send them back to their country," he said.
The opposition in Turkey has grasped tightly onto the issue of Syrian refugees, and used the money spent on those fleeing violence and persecution, as a reason to attack the government.
Despite his nationalist rhetoric in the video, Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that his views are not racist.
"This is not racism. The Syrians are close to us, but they will be happier on the soil they were born, and for this we will work to send them there safely," he said.
"When we take over, we will solve the problem of the Syrians and everything related to the Syrian crisis within two years," he added.
There have been numerous accounts of refugees being targeted by the Syrian regime upon their return, despite claims of alleged safety by both the Syrian regime and the deporting nation.
According to the Turkish government, they have so far managed to return at least 450,000 Syrian to areas of their homeland, which they claim to be "safe".