Turkey says over 200,000 Syrians granted citizenship

Turkey has granted citizenship to 200, 950 Syrian migrants while 500,000 Syrian nationals have voluntarily returned home from Turkey as of March 31, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Friday as he dismissed criticism over Ankara’s migrant policy.

If the government had failed to take precautionary measures against illegal migrants, including border control and police monitoring of migrants in the country, Turkey would have been home to over 10 million refugees,  Soylu said during an interview with NTV network.

Turkey hosts the world's largest refugee population with 3.7 million Syrians under temporary protection and over 320,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly from Afghanistan, under international protection, according to official figures. 

Syrian migrants in the country have been faced with growing anti-refugee sentiment as opposition parties question Ankara’s policies and vow to ensure their return home if elected to power.

Critics are using Syrian migrants as a political tool, the interior minister added, dismissing claims that upwards of 900,000 Syrians had been given Turkish citizenship.

“Of the 200,950 Syrians who have been granted Turkish citizenship, 87,296 are children,” Soylu said, noting that 30-35 percent of said group voted in the 2018 elections.

Soylu on Friday also said that Turkey had banned Syrian refugees in the country from visiting family in northern Syria for the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday, T24 reported.

The decision deviates from Turkey’s years-long policy of allowing Syrian migrants a window of time to visit home during religious holidays of Eid.

“As of last week, we told our governors not to allow holiday leave (for Syrians),” Soylu said. “(If) they can go to the safe zone (in northeast Syria) and stay there (permanently). Those who go (home) for the holiday and then (attempt to) return will not be allowed."

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