Syrians living in Turkey to become citizens, Erdogan says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that millions of Syrians living in Turkey will have a chance to become citizens.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A Syrian refugee sits on a tent waving a Turkish flag outside his home at a tent camp in Turkey.

Millions of Syrians living in Turkey will have a chance to become citizens of the country that gave them shelter, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday.

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking in the southern Turkish province of Kilis, which borders Syria and hosts more than 120,000 Syrians, Erdogan said that many of the Syrians now in Turkey want to become Turkish citizens.

"There are steps our Interior Ministry has taken on the issue,” he said.

"We will give the chance to [acquire] citizenship by helping out these brothers and sisters by monitoring through offices set up by the ministry."

Around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the devastating civil war in their country have taken shelter inside Turkey.

Turkey hosts the world's largest population of refugees and it has sharply criticised European nations for failing to open their borders to those fleeing the six year long civil war in Syria, which has created the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

A refguee holds a message, "Thank you EU for closing the border" during a protest asking for the opening of borders at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 18, 2016.

Turkish citizenship will help ease many of the problems Syrians face. Such a move will allow them to travel more freely, get proper jobs and have access to health services and education for children.

Referring to the Syrian crisis, which turned violent in 2011 when regime leader Bashar al Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters, Erdogan said that Syrians had been prevented from governing themselves.

Syrian refugees work in a Syrian-owned clothing factory in Gaziantep, Turkey.


"Even today we are defending the same principles that we defended six years ago. We are saying the same things," Erdogan added.

Since the conflict started in Syria, at least 250,000 people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures. Some estimates put the death toll at 400,000.

The war has driven more than 4 million people – a sixth of the country’s population – to seek sanctuary in neighbouring countries, making it the largest refugee crisis for a quarter of a century.

Refugee tents in Turkey’s southeastern Kilis Province.

A senior Turkish official said that the president's remarks represented a "statement of intent" and that the government was still undertaking preliminary work, according to CNBC.

The news outlet also pointed out that Erdogan’s comments raise questions about the fragile refugee deal struck between Turkey and EU to halt the influx of refugees using smugglers to reach Europe.

In return for Ankara's cooperation, Brussels promised a series of incentives, including granting visa-free travel for Turkish passport holders to Europe's borderless Schengen zone.

AA, TRTWorld and agencies