The Turkish Interior Ministry last week ordered the demolition of buildings primarily lived in by Syrian refugees in Ankara’s Altındağ district, where an anti-refugee protest took place last month, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.
The ministry ordered the Altındağ Municipality to demolish neighborhood buildings it said were constructed without permits. According to the ministry the neighborhood, which is largely populated by Syrians, had become a “ghetto.” The ministry gave residents one week to empty out their houses before they were demolished.
Critics have argued that illegal buildings have been a problem in the neighborhood for years but not a concern for authorities until recently. They said this was directly linked to the protest during which houses, shops and cars owned by Syrians in the neighborhood were attacked.
When the buildings are demolished, most of the Syrians in the neighborhood will be forced to seek accommodation elsewhere. Two of the buildings have already been emptied and demolished, according to reports.
Anti-migrant sentiment has been on the increase in Turkey. Opposition politicians have also expressed such sentiment. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, 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, recently said an additional water and solid waste tax 10 times the normal tax would be imposed on refugees living in Bolu.
The Interior Ministry previously said Syrian refugees living in Ankara but registered in different cities would be sent back to those cities. The buildings inhabited by those refugees would be emptied and inspections would be carried out on their businesses to determine if they were legal.
According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. The country is currently home to some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, along with close to 320,000 persons of concern from other nationalities.