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Erdogan vows not to expel Syrian refugees as opposition head urges sending them back

Turkish president’s comments come as anger over migrants grows among locals, sparking fears in his office that issue might dominate next year’s elections

Syrian refugees pass through the Turkish Cilvegozu gate border, Aug. 31, 2013 a the height of the Syrian civil war. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Syrian refugees pass through the Turkish Cilvegozu gate border, Aug. 31, 2013 a the height of the Syrian civil war. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday pledged that Turkey would not drive Syrian refugees back to their home country despite pressure from opposition parties.

Turkey is today home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees who fled after civil war broke out in 2011 in its southern neighbor.

Last week, the main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said his party would return Syrian refugees to their homeland within two years if he came to power.

“We will protect until the end these brothers who fled the war and took refuge in our country” no matter what the CHP leader claims, Erdogan said in a televised address.

“We will never expel them from this land.

“Our door is wide open to them. We will continue to host them. We will not throw them into the lap of murderers.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves as he arrives to give a speech during a party parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) in Ankara, Turkey, on April 20, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)

Erdogan is facing rising public anger over the refugees and is wary of the issue dominating next year’s presidential elections.

Turkey has welcomed nearly five million refugees in total, including Syrians and Afghans, but their presence has caused tensions with locals, especially as the country is in economic turmoil with the weakening lira and soaring energy and food prices.

Last week, Erdogan said Ankara was aiming to encourage one million refugees to return home by building housing and local infrastructure in Syria.

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