Media reports reveal that as Turkey’s economy gets worse and affects Turkish people’s purchasing power, the attitude toward the Syrian refugees has drastically changed, with an increase in hostile acts against them.
The Economist in its latest edition delved into the issue of Syrian refugees in Turkey. After the outbreak of the Syria uprising, millions of civilians took shelter in Turkey, escaping the brutality of the war at home.
Though the Turkish government deservedly gained the praise of the international community for its accommodation of more than 3,5 million Syrian refugees, it showed signs of financial overstretch and mounting public grumblings about its social and economic cost.
Economist notes that Turkish people do no longer welcome the Syrian refugees and see them a pressing socio-economic problem.
In one example, as the magazine reported, %66 percent of the residents, responding to a public survey, cited Syrians as the most serious and compelling concern to be dealt with ahead of the March 31 elections.
As the refugee problem became a driving political force and a divisive issue in many European countries, the situation of Syrians in Turkey has gained similar tropes and became a central theme of political discourse during the recent local municipal elections.
The issue especially has become a matter of political controversy in coastal areas where the Syrians concentrated. It shaped the campaign of opposition party candidates who saw no scruples in using the “refugee card.”
As Economist report notes, Meral Aksener, the leader of the nationalist IYI (Good) Party, became the vanguard of a political campaign to send Syrians back home. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been the champion of embracing Syrians so far.
While the open border policy did spur a little public reaction in the first years, the looming economic crisis has left a profound impact on people’s thinking regarding the refugees.
In a town in northern Turkey, a new mayor from the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) acted immediately and cut off the municipal aid to Syrians living there, Economist reports.
As the tide of public mood swung wide openly against the Syrians, the AK Party officials needed to adjust their discourse. Binali Yildirim, the AK Party nominee for Istanbul and former Prime Minister, even pledged to send some Syrians back if they threatened public order.
The course of Turkish politics also is not promising. After President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party lost major cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, the state of municipal and local aid to Syrian refugees would be in jeopardy. It was, after all, Erdogan’s party which provided subsidies and aid to the Syrians living in AKP-governed cities.