Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has reiterated his pledge to send Syrian refugees back to their country. Speaking in the central Anatolian province of Çorum on Aug. 19 to commemorate World Humanitarian Day, Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu pledged that the CHP would send nearly 3 million Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country back to Syria if it came to power by election, saying:‘‘We want the Syrians in Turkey to go back to their country. That is clear." Referring to refugees, the CHP chairman said that they need to get rid of them. Kılıçdaroğlu made the controversial statement while responding to a question about Syrian refugees. "There will be an election today and they will all cast their votes. In Kilis [province], there are more Syrians than Turks. Thus, the mayor of Kilis and all municipal council members could be Syrians. We need to get rid of them. It's time for them to go back their country," he added.
In fact, the CHP leader's xenophobic remarks on Syrian refugees are nothing new. Prior to the June 7 general election in 2015, Kılıçdaroğlu had pledged that the CHP would send all Syrian refugees back to their country if it came to power after the June 7 general elections. "[The CHP] will send the 2 million Syrian refugees back to their country. We will bring peace to the Middle East," he said on April 26, 2015, while speaking in Edirne. Prior to his speech in the province, which borders Bulgaria, he made remarks regarding Syrian refugees in the southern province of Mersin, which has seen one of the highest influxes of Syrians in the country due to its proximity to the Syrian border. He said: "We will say to them, 'Sorry, but go back to your homeland,'" claiming once more that he would bring peace to the Middle East, which has been in chaos for years, saying that everyone is happiest residing in their places of birth.
The main opposition is accused by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government of siding with Syria's Assad. Widely claimed to have close ties with the Assad regime and implementing a party policy of not interfering in the political affairs of the Middle East, the CHP came under harsh criticism in 2013 when the party sent a delegation to hold talks with Assad amid increasing tensions between Ankara and the Assad regime. Ankara, which has maintained a solid stance against the Assad regime and a strong belief that the dictator should be removed from power in order to restore peace in the region, considers Assad the seed of all atrocities in Syria and holds his regime responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians.
Turkey hosts more than three million Syrian refugees who fled the country's nearly seven-year civil war, having contributed billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the war-torn country despite its lack of financial resources to do so. According to the Development Initiative's (DI) Global Humanitarian Assistance report released in June, Turkey came in second after the U.S. among countries that contributed the most humanitarian aid to the Syria conflict in 2016. Turkey contributed $6 billion in humanitarian aid in 2016 while the U.S. contributed $6.3 billion, the DI report indicates. Furthermore, Turkey ranks first if the national income is included in the said data. The country's gross national income was $857 billion in 2016, compared to $18.7 trillion in the U.S.
Turkey's humanitarian aid in 2015 amounted to $3.2 billion. In 2016, this figure increased by 115 percent to reach $6 billion.