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Turkish opposition party leader calls for vote on citizenship for Syrian refugees

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu questions motives behind offer to give 2.7 million Syrians chance at Turkish citizenship
Syrian refugees on Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep (AFP)

The leader of Turkey’s leading opposition party has called for a referendum on whether Syrian refugees should be offered Turkish citizenship.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the 2.7 million Syrians who had fled their country would be given an option to apply for Turkish citizenship.

The two main opposition parties – the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – quickly spoke out against the offer. Some accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of trying to attract Syrian votes and shift the demographics of Turkey’s southeast.

On Tuesday, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called for a nationwide vote on the controversial topic, the Turkish Daily Hurriyet reported.

“What is the reason you are giving Syrians citizenship? If you insist on it, you always talk about the ‘national will,’ so let’s ask the people,” Kilicdaroglu was quoted as saying at a parliamentary group meeting.

Instead of offering Syrians homes in Turkey, Kilicdaroglu said, Turkey should rebuild their homes in their war-torn homeland.

The CHP leader said he was concerned that it would be difficult to identify militants among so many Syrian refugees and that offering citizenship may create ghettos in big cities.

He also questioned why Turkey has accepted so many Syrian refugees, when Europe “has not taken in even 500”.

“If the government is doing this in order to design a new regime, it is a betrayal of Turkey. If it is doing this in order to gain votes to introduce the presidential system, it is a betrayal,” he said.

According to independent Turkish pollster Metropoll, 83 percent of Turks surveyed in March oppose the idea of granting citizenship to Syrian refugees.