İmamoğlu expresses support for former Erdoğan ally's party

Istanbul’s newly elected opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has stated his approval of a measure by the interior ministry to move Syrian refugees not registered in the megacity to their original province of registration.

"Sending Syrians who are not registered (in the city) out of Istanbul is a necessary step. Sociology cannot bear this burden,’’ Deutsche Welle Turkish quoted İmamoğlu as saying.

İmamoğlu’s statement arrives as Turkish authorities intensify a crackdown on Syrian refugees. The Istanbul governor’s office last week set an Aug. 20 deadline for Syrian refugees to return to the Turkish provinces in which they were registered on arrival or face forcible return to those regions, a move that has caused panic for Syrians living in the city.

Some 500,000 of Turkey’s 3.6 million registered refugees live in Istanbul, and a further 200,000 are believed to live in the city but hold registration elsewhere in the country.

İmamoğlu said that government has badly managed the issue of Syrian refugees from the very beginning.

"How did we come to this point? Why were precautions not taken? These are the questions that should be asked" İmamoğlu said.

The Istanbul mayor also vowed to examine and effectively deal with the problems facing refugees in the city.  

Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week accused Turkey of detaining and coercing Syrians into signing “voluntary return” forms and then forcibly returning them to northern Syria, an area that is currently a war zone.

Turkey has denied the charges and says the crackdown on migration is aimed at preventing illegal migration.

The new Istanbul mayor also touched on reported plans of a new political movement led by former deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, Ali Babacan.

Babacan, who is lauded for successfully steering Turkey’s economy during the first decade of Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule, announced his resignation from the party earlier this month as well as plans for a separate party. 

İmamoğlu said that Turkey is in need of a new political discourse and that he hopes to work with the new party to produce work that will benefit the country.

"We are closely seeing that individual identities are causing more damage than providing benefit," İmamoğlu said. 

The 49-year-old mayor also stressed the importance of what he called determined stances in politics.

"Determined stances are very important in politics. It is very important that they don’t backpedal if they believe in something. Turkey is in need of determined stances," he said.