Amid ongoing debates whether Syrian refugees in Turkey will be sent back to their homeland, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has announced that to date a total of 200,950 Syrians who fled a civil war in Syria and sought refuge in Turkey have been granted Turkish citizenship, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.
“The number of Syrians who have as of today met the criteria to be naturalized and have become Turkish citizens is 200,950,” Soylu said at a ministry event in Ankara on Tuesday.
Opposition parties, which criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) due to their open door policy toward refugees, accused them of facilitating the naturalization of refugees so that they can vote for the AKP in elections.
According to a report in the Sözcü daily on Tuesday, Turkey is the third country following Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, both island countries, where foreigners can acquire citizenship by means of investment at lower prices than the situation in other countries. Currently, members of a foreign family are granted Turkish citizenship if they buy a property with a value of $250,000. In Antigua and Barbuda, this amount is $140,000 while it is $200,000 in Dominica.
However, Turkey announced changes to a regulation last month on the requirements for the acquisition of Turkish citizenship by means of investment that requires foreigners to pay at least $400,000 for a piece of real estate, instead of $250,000, to be eligible for citizenship on the condition of holding the property for three years. The changes are expected to go into force soon.
Last week, Soylu also denied claims that there are more than 3.7 million Syrians in Turkey, saying that the number of Syrians who returned home over the past five years has exceeded 1.5 million.
Erdoğan is facing rising public anger over the refugees and is wary of the issue dominating next year’s presidential election.
Turkey has welcomed nearly 5 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 a weak lira and soaring energy and food prices.
Last week Erdoğan said Ankara was aiming to encourage 1 million refugees to return home by building housing and local infrastructure in Syria. However, he said in a statement on Monday that Turkey would not drive Syrian refugees back to their home country despite pressure from opposition parties.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been pledging that his party would return Syrian refugees to their homeland within two years if he comes to power.