Yesterday, the Turkish migration department announced that the total number of Syrian refugees in the country has risen to 3,583,434 from 2.8 million in 2016. Over 15% live in Istanbul, with similar figures in the Urfa and Hatay provinces; yet, only 14,000 have returned home to Syrian, leaving Turkish political leaders in a difficult situation.
The country is in the process of holding parliamentary elections, for which 34-year-old Mohammed al-Shaikhouni, a Syrian-born businessman, hopes to give a voice to millions of refugees. Al-Shaikhouni moved to Turkey in 2008 - before the civil war began - and became a strong supporter of Tayyip Erdogan. He later changed his to Mohammed Erdogan to reflect his admiration for the President.
The young politician aims to become the leader of Turkey’s AK (Adalet ve Kalkınma, or Justice and Development) Party; however, he acknowledges that a surge of nationalism earlier in the spring has brought about widespread anti-Syrian sentiment. For instance, Muharrem Ince of Republican People’s Party accused President Tayyip Erdogan of “reckless governing” for allowing 72,000 refugees to cross back into Syria for Eid al-Fitr, then return to Turkey. Furthermore, many Turks attribute rising inflation to Syrians accepting lower wages and increasing competition for unskilled jobs. The Centre of American Progress states that 78% of Turkish citizens believe the government is allocating too many resources to caring for the refugee population. With growing intercommunal strife, prospects for the June 24th elections look grim.
Cetingulec, Mehmet. "Fate of Syrian Refugees Hot Election Topic in Turkey." Al-Monitor. June 08, 2018. Accessed June 09, 2018. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/06/turkey-elections-fate-syrian-refugees-hot-topic.html.
Evans, Dominic. "Syrian Refugees in Spotlight in Turkey's Election in June." Reuters. June 04, 2018. Accessed June 09, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-election-syrians/syrian-refugees-in-spotlight-in-turkeys-election-in-june-idUSKCN1J023X.
"Turkey Announces New Migration Statistics for Syrian Refugees." Enab Baladi. June 08, 2018. Accessed June 09, 2018. https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2018/06/turkey-announces-new-migration-statistics-for-syrian-refugees/.