As Turkey’s economic crisis grows, politicians spar over refugees

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Istanbul, Turkey – Amid a deepening economic crisis successful Turkey, choler is increasing towards the millions of refugees surviving successful the country, with tensions threatening to spill implicit successful caller weeks.

Videos of ample groups of overseas nationals hanging retired successful assorted places of Istanbul are being shared with rising frequence connected Twitter, with thousands of radical taking to societal media to explicit alarm and calling for refugees to beryllium sent backmost to their countries.

Some Turks besides impeach Syrians of “stealing” their jobs and being liable for rising rental prices, arsenic inflation soars and the worth of the lira slumps. Polls bespeak that the immense majority of Turkish citizens present privation refugees to beryllium sent home.

Analysts accidental politicians are progressively seizing connected this resentment and utilizing it for governmental summation up of Turkey’s parliamentary and statesmanlike elections owed to instrumentality spot successful June 2023.

According to caller Interior Ministry figures, Turkey is location to much than 4 cardinal refugees, 3.76 cardinal of which are Syrians. The state besides hosts hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.

Opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) assertion that these figures are vastly underreported.

Among these critics is Umit Ozdag, a parliamentarian formerly of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AK Party’s existent conjugation partner. Ozdag was booted retired of the enactment successful 2016, joining the absorption right-wing Good Party (IYI) the adjacent twelvemonth earlier breaking distant to signifier his ain party, the Victory Party, successful August 2021.

Under the slogan “Victory volition travel to power, each refugees and illegals volition go”, the party’s popularity has grown. They assertion – without grounds – that determination are much than 8 cardinal refugees presently successful Turkey, which would magnitude to astir 10 percent of the country’s population.

The enactment precocious commissioned a abbreviated fictional movie called Silent Invasion which is acceptable successful 2043 and depicts a dystopian Turkey wherever a Syrian governmental enactment is recently elected to power, pledging to marque Arabic the authoritative connection of the country. In the film, a Turkish antheral is harassed by Syrians connected the thoroughfare and forced to tally for screen erstwhile they pursuit aft him. Aspiring to go a doctor, helium alternatively works arsenic a infirmary janitor and complains to his parents that it is amerciable to talk Turkish astatine his workplace. The movie has much than 4 cardinal views connected YouTube since its merchandise connected May 3.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has blasted the film, dubbing it a provocation and a nonstop onslaught against the government.

Ozdag responded by calling connected Soylu to conscionable him astatine the entranceway of the Interior Ministry successful Ankara, saying “you’ll hold for maine determination if you’re a man” – fuelling the warfare of words betwixt the 2 politicians and amplifying the exile issue, which has already featured prominently successful Turkey’s quality docket for weeks.

The person of the main absorption Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has besides promised to nonstop Syrians backmost if elected.

“Them staying successful Turkey and their fig being precise precocious is really a hazard for Turkey, and it is simply a hazard for them arsenic well, this needs to beryllium fixed. These radical request to unrecorded successful their ain country, wrong their ain culture, freely and with their information ensured,” Kilicdaroglu said successful a connection past month.

For its part, the authorities has taken a softer line connected refugees.

“[Refugees] tin instrumentality to their countries erstwhile they wish, but we volition not footwear them out,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said connected May 9.

Erdogan had said past week that they were preparing for the voluntary instrumentality of 1 cardinal Syrians and pledged to physique 200,000 homes successful bluish Syria to facilitate their return.

Selim Koru, an expert astatine the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, told Al Jazeera that the exile question has go “hugely significant” and is “upending the governmental debate”.

“A batch of [problems], from acquisition to security, are being pegged to the beingness of [mostly] mediocre foreigners successful Turkey. The lone question to my caput is the grade to which the system is going to beryllium pegged to immigrants/refugees,” Koru said.

“So is the [argument] saying ‘we’re mediocre due to the fact that we’re severely governed’ going to get subsumed by ‘we’re mediocre due to the fact that we fto these radical in?’” Koru said.

Ozdag insists that his enactment is not racist but says refugees should instrumentality to their countries for economical and taste reasons – a stance reiterated by the party’s Istanbul provincial president Hakan Aksit.

“A feline is Syrian, a feline is Afghan, they person their ain culture, their ain language, their ain household structure. Those should not beryllium spoiled. For that reason, we privation to nonstop them backmost happily to their countries arsenic soon arsenic possible,” Aksit told Al Jazeera.

Cem Oyvat, a elder lecturer successful economics astatine the University of Greenwich, is captious of the Victory Party’s presumption that sending refugees location volition hole the economy.

“It cannot beryllium a coincidence that the reactions against immigrants are rising precisely astatine the play that the authoritative yearly ostentation complaint hits 70 percent,” Oyvat told Al Jazeera. “However, it’s hard to database immigrants arsenic 1 of the main causes of the cost-of-living situation successful Turkey. Turkey is presently not experiencing a demand-led inflation.”

“The Turkish system has been babelike connected blistery wealth flows and is associated with precocious existent relationship deficits agelong earlier the commencement of the Syrian War,” helium added.

“Under these conditions, the Erdogan authorities shifted to an highly debased involvement argumentation which led to a bid of shocks connected the Turkish lira starting from 2018. The latest depreciation of the lira followed by the declining argumentation rates led to the doubling of USD/TRY speech complaint wrong 14 months, which yet was reflected connected the user prices successful Turkey.”

If anti-refugee sentiment continues to emergence successful the lead-up to the 2023 elections, the increasing trend of violence towards refugees could beryllium further exacerbated and the authorities volition person to warrant its policies to an progressively aggravated public.

With the immense bulk of Syrian refugees present settled successful Turkish society, Koru says it is improbable that important numbers volition instrumentality to Syria voluntarily and that determination is an “overwhelming economical involvement successful keeping refugees” arsenic they thrust down labour costs.

“So the question present is who tin exert greater unit connected the government: concern oregon the electorate,” helium said. “So far, the effect has been ‘business’.”