Xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes against Syrian refugees are increasing in Turkey as the country prepares for upcoming elections, the Istanbul-based Asylum Seekers Platform said at a press conference on Friday, the T24 news website reported.
According to the platform anti-migrant sentiment is being expressed, especially on social media and often by political parties. ”Syrians who have found refuge in Turkey are constantly subjected to attacks and hate speech, especially by political parties,” they said in a statement, adding that although refugees are protected by international human rights law, they are frequently the victim of hate crimes.
Reading stories from the media of several incidents where Syrian refugees were attacked, platform members expressed their concerns that the upcoming elections would lead political parties to increasing their discriminatory statements against migrants.
They called on the Turkish public to show solidarity with migrants and stand together against attempts to make them political targets.
Anti-refugee sentiment has escalated in Turkey, fueled by the country’s economic woes. With unemployment high and the price of food and housing skyrocketing, many Turks have turned their frustration toward refugees, particularly the nearly 4 million Syrians who fled the civil war that broke out in 2011.
Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.
Tensions between Turks and Syrians flare up on occasion in Turkey, where refugees are blamed for many of the country’s social and economic troubles.
Hate crimes against refugees and migrants have been escalating in recent years as Turkish media, including pro-government and opposition outlets, fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.
Anti-migrant sentiment has also been expressed by opposition politicians, including Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right Victory Party (ZP), and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power in the 2023 elections.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is facing rising public anger over the refugees and is wary of the issue dominating next year’s presidential election, said earlier this month that Ankara was aiming to encourage 1 million refugees to return home by building housing and local infrastructure in Syria.