Jun 17 2019

Turkish ruling party mayoral candidate vows to send Syrian refugees back

The ruling party candidate in the rerun of the vote for Istanbul mayor, Binali Yıldırım, said he would send Syrian refugees back home.

What to do with some 3.5 million Syrian refugees now in Turkey has become a big issue as what turned from a warm welcome at the start of the civil war in 2011 has turned to anger and resentment among many, especially at a time when Turks are experiencing high unemployment. Some 20 percent of Syrian refugees in Turkey are thought to live in Istanbul.

''They will leave,” said Yıldırım in answer to a question during a live televised debate with his secularist party rival Ekrem İmamoğlu on Sunday.

Turkey has already been returning Syrians to part of the country it and its Syrian Islamist allies have seized in the north of the country, mostly from Syrian Kurdish forces. Turkey has pledged to set up a buffer zone along the border inside Syria to the east of the River Euphrates, but the United States has warned of severe consequences if it does. U.S. forces are present in the area where they helped the Syrian Kurds defeat Islamic State.

But Yıldırım, a former prime minister and a staunch ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was adamant that Syrians would be sent back to Syria, including to the east of the Euphrates.

"They will return home. Nearly 500,000 people returned to areas liberated from terrorists by Turkey and more will leave after area east of River Euphrates is cleared," Yıldırım said.

İmamoğlu said he would establish a special unit to address the Syrian refugee issue in Istanbul.

“We will hold a refugee population census, especially among children,” İmamoğlu said.

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