Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Syrian refugees coming at centre of Türkiye's presidential vote

Monday 22/May/2023 - 07:10 PM
The Reference
Mahmud Mohamadi

None of Türkiye's main presidential contenders, namely incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, managed to end the presidential polls in his favour.

A presidential election runoff will be organized in Türkiye shortly.

Each of the two candidates tries to win over undecided voters by inviting attention to the failings of the other.

This brings up the issue of Syrian refugees in Türkiye.

There is growing hostility in this country towards the presence of the refugees. This is why the two candidates try to use this issue as a rallying point, with each of them clarifying how he will deal with it while at the office of president.


Türkiye hosts a large number of Syrian refugees. The United Nations estimates the number of Syrian refugees in Türkiye at over 3.7 million.

However, Syrian refugees in Türkiye face many challenges and difficulties.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Türkiye is access to basic services, such as healthcare, education and housing.

Although the Turkish government has provided significant support to Syrian refugees, demand for basic services far exceeds available supply.

As a result, Syrian refugees in Türkiye face poor housing conditions and extreme poverty.

In addition, Syrian refugees in Türkiye face difficulties in finding jobs. Although the Turkish government has provided some support to refugees wishing to work, the high unemployment rate in Türkiye makes it difficult for refugees to find jobs.

Syrian refugee women in Türkiye face additional difficulties, including in obtaining jobs and accessing health and educational services.

Syrian refugee women in Türkiye are also at risk of domestic violence and sexual exploitation.

Some Syrian refugees face difficulties in obtaining legal residence permits, others have difficulties in accessing lawyers and obtaining legal assistance.

Despite these challenges and difficulties, the Turkish government, the local community and international organizations are working hard to help Syrian refugees in Türkiye and improve their situation.

However, this effort needs more international support.

Kılıçdaroğlu's position

In his election campaign, presidential candidate Kılıçdaroğlu made a number of promises that he said he would strive to implement if he succeeded in reaching the office of president in his country.

These promises included visa-free entry of Turkish citizens to the European Union, obtaining investments in large amounts, up to $300 billion, as well as the return of Syrians and Afghans to their countries of origin. He even pledged to do this in a matter of two years from assuming the office of president.


As for incumbent Erdoğan, he has announced his intention in advance that he will voluntarily deport about half a million Syrians from Turkish territory to their country.

Eleven months before the presidential elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party was protecting Syrians, considering them a cheap labour force that benefits the Turkish economy and achieves a kind of economic boom in the country.

However, with the increase in inflation and poverty, as well as the major crisis that hit Türkiye after the earthquake of February 6, societal acceptance of Syrian immigrants decreased.

This led to a pronounced change in the policy of the ruling Justice and Development Party towards this issue.

Growing importance

Turkish analyst, Murat Erdoğan, said that opposition parties in Türkiye noticed social rejection of the refugees early on.

"These parties succeeded in winning their parliamentary seats after taking sides with the majority of the people on this issue," Erdoğan he added.

He added that incumbent president Erdoğan, too, announced a plan for the voluntary and safe repatriation of Syrians to their country.

"He brags about this privately and publicly," the Turkish analyst said.

"He is proud that the ruling party managed to coordinate the return of large numbers of Syrians to their country," he added.