Istanbul, Turkey – As Turks put together to move to the polls for a presidential run-off, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees within the nation are watching anxiously, unsure about how the result might form their future.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu will face off Sunday within the second spherical of the vote after neither secured a majority within the first on Might 14. Erdogan received 49.5 p.c and Kilicdaroglu 44.9 p.c.
Immigration has been a central concern within the elections. The marketing campaign has seen a number of opposition politicians pledging to expel refugees and migrants whereas the federal government has highlighted its plans to press forward with what it calls “voluntarily” repatriations of Syrians.
Based on the United Nations, Turkey has taken in 3.7 million refugees, greater than every other nation on this planet. Within the yr main as much as the polls, stress grew on refugees and migrants, specifically Syrians, throughout an financial disaster with hovering inflation, a plunging lira and a deepening cost-of-living crunch.
The state of affairs has left many Syrians in Turkey deeply frightened about their future within the nation.
“I don’t know what’s going to occur after the election,” stated Habib, 23, whose identify has been modified to guard his identification.
“They [politicians] say they need to ship all Syrians again. All of us endure from nervousness on this interval,” stated the person who was displaced eight years in the past by Syria’s warfare and at present resides in Istanbul.
Based on the United Nations refugee company, the overwhelming majority of refugees in Turkey – 3.6 million – are Syrian dwelling underneath “momentary safety standing”. About 200,000 Syrians have been given Turkish citizenship because the Syrian warfare erupted in 2011, in line with authorities figures.
Whereas Turkey initially welcomed the refugees, supplied shelter and entry to schooling with billions of euros in European Union funding, anti-refugee sentiment has grown lately, and refugees have grow to be scapegoats for Turkey’s financial troubles, which has often led to violence.
Muhammad Siddik Yasar, who runs the Tarlabaşı Solidarity Affiliation, a refugee solidarity group in Istanbul, stated anti-refugee sentiment sharpened within the run-up to the elections.
“Being a refugee means that you’re right here at this time, however you don’t have any assure for tomorrow,” he informed Al Jazeera.
“Persons are asking us what to do. They’re afraid that racism will improve after the election. I’ve been working with refugees for a few years, and I’ve by no means seen something like this yr,” he stated.
The rising anti-refugee sentiment manifested itself on the poll field within the first spherical of the elections as nationalists delivered a robust efficiency, notably the far-right nationalist presidential candidate Sinan Ogan, who received an surprising 5.2 p.c of the vote.
Ogan ran because the candidate of the ATA (Ancestral) Alliance, led by the anti-migrant, ultranationalist Victory Occasion. He has since endorsed Erdogan.
“Ogan is an fascinating and vital phenomenon in Turkish politics,” stated Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Analysis Program on the Washington Institute for Close to East Coverage.
“He rallied on one concern solely, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant platform. With no media entry, no rallies and no cash principally, he acquired 5 p.c,” Cagaptay stated.
For the reason that first spherical, Kilicdaroglu, who’s backed by a broad coalition of opposition events, has doubled down on his place relating to deportations.
“Erdogan, you didn’t defend the borders and honour of our nation,” he stated final week. “As quickly as I come to energy, I’ll ship all refugees house.”
Dealing with opposition assaults on immigration, the federal government has pressed forward with talks with Damascus in what seems to sign a warming of ties.
This month, the international ministers of Turkey, Syria and Iran met in Moscow as a part of the Kremlin’s efforts to dealer a rapprochement between the Turkish and Syrian governments after years of antagonism over Syria’s warfare and a number of Turkish navy operations in northern Syria.
For his half, al-Assad has demanded that Turkey withdraw from the territories underneath its management in northwest Syria.
The talks have been held as a number of regional leaders have moved to normalise ties with al-Assad. In mid-Might, Syria was readmitted to the Arab League after its membership had been suspended for greater than a decade.
Kilicdaroglu has stated he intends to revive ties with al-Assad whereas Erdogan has beforehand stated he might meet al-Assad for talks.
In addition to strikes in the direction of a possible rapprochement, Erdogan’s authorities has pushed on with its plan for refugees to “resettle voluntarily” in areas in Syria underneath Turkish safety management.
“Now we have constructed greater than 100,000 homes for [refugees] in northern Syria,” Erdogan stated this month at a gathering of younger individuals in his Justice and Improvement Occasion (AK Occasion). “Step by step, Syrian refugees started to settle in these residences.”
“There isn’t a time restrict on this concern,” Erdogan added. “We give our greatest to assist and help them on this regard.”
Based on Turkey’s inside ministry, practically 58,000 Syrians returned to their house nation from November 2021 to October final yr.
In a 2022 report, Human Rights Watch documented a whole bunch of deportations from February to July final yr, which the federal government stated have been voluntary departures.
Many Syrians are cautious concerning the prospect of returning to their house nation because the warfare there continues. Habib stated he fears being drafted into the military if he have been to return to Syria.
“If I’m transferred to Bashar [al-Assad], I’d be in a really vital situation, and my household wouldn’t have anybody to assist them,” he stated.
Salim Cevik, a researcher on the Centre for Utilized Turkey Research on the German Institute for Worldwide and Safety Affairs, stated there was “no simple and fast answer to Turkey’s migration concern”.
“There isn’t a repatriation coverage attainable any time quickly,” he stated. “The extra sensible coverage would most likely discover methods to combine them into Turkish society. However that is one thing that no politician can say in public.”