Turkey to deport Syrian refugees involved in crime, end free health care - Erdoğan

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday said that Turkey was preparing a series of policy changes regarding the country’s Syrian refugees, including the deportation of criminals and ending free healthcare services.

“We are preparing to take new steps. We are going to encourage them to return to their countries. We are going to deport those who have committed crimes. Furthermore, we foresee a contribution payment from them in exchange for the health services provided to them,’’ pro-government Türkiye newspaper quoted Erdoğan as saying. 

Turkey is home to some 3.6 million registered refugees from Syria. The increasing displeasure with Syrian refugees is a cause for concern for Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost five of the country’s most populous provinces, including the financial hub of Istanbul and capital Ankara, in the March 31 local elections. Analysts maintain frustration against the group drove a shift in favour of opposition, particularly in large cities such as Istanbul, which is home to over 500,000 Syrians.  

Turkey’s stumbling economy and rising unemployment has fuelled anger against the presence of Turkey’s Syrian refugees, and many are resented by Turks as cheap labour taking over jobs and using services, according to a Reuters report last week.

“We had to open our doors to Syrians,’’ Erdoğan added. “We could not turn a blind eye to them. We took them under our wings. This could have happened to us, too.’’