Syrian businesses and homes attacked in central Turkey amid increasing anti-migrant sentiment

A group of locals attacked the houses, workplaces and cars of Syrian refugees in the central Turkish province of Kayseri on Sunday evening in what appears to be another wave of racist attacks amid the anti-migrant sentiment that has developed in the country in recent years, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.

The incident took place following local allegations that a Syrian man sexually abused a 7-year-old Syrian girl. A mob then headed to a neighborhood where Syrian refugees reside.

According to local reports, dozens of angry people threw rocks at homes and workplaces as well as setting fire to a building believed to belong to Syrian refugees.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced on Monday that 67 people had been detained and five police officers injured.

Hate crimes against refugees and migrants, who are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles, have been escalating in the country in recent years.

Two years ago the fatal stabbing of a Turk during a fight between Turkish and Syrian young men triggered intercommunal tensions in Ankara that went on for weeks.

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 previously also been expressed by opposition politicians. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has promised to send Syrians back home if his party comes to power.

Tanju Özcan, the mayor of Bolu province from the CHP, previously said an additional water and solid waste tax 10 times the normal tax would be imposed on refugees living in Bolu.

Amid the worsening of Turkey’s economy, right-wing segments of the Turkish opposition have been instigating anti-migrant sentiment among the public, which has led to many incidents of hate crimes resulting in injury or death.

Cornered by the opposition and the unease among its own voter base, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been compelled to announce more stringent measures as well as “voluntary return” programs. Human rights advocates have accused the authorities of coercing the migrants to sign voluntary return documents under torture.

Turkey, under its temporary protection regime, has granted 3,535,898 Syrian nationals the right to legally stay in the country. The vast majority, 3,488,373, of them live outside camps, while 47,525 Syrians reside in seven camps, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

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