Turkey has restricted registry for temporary and international protection of foreigners in 16 provinces as the country takes new measures on migration and harmonization.
In a meeting on migration with media representatives, Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Çataklı said that provinces that were closed for registry of temporary and international protection were Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Bursa, Çanakkale, Düzce, Edirne, Hatay, Istanbul, Izmir, Kırklareli, Kocaeli, Muğla, Sakarya, Tekirdağ and Yalova.
“We have made a new planning. If there are more than 25% of foreigners in a neighborhoods population, we close it to the residence of foreigners. We do not accept new residency permit applications. We have done this through several neighborhoods,” Çataklı said.
He stated that 781 neighborhoods in Turkey were closed to registry because the number of foreigners exceeded 25% of the total population.
Çataklı pointed out that foreigners gather especially in derelict buildings, in unhealthy conditions and even sometimes in working places that are not even housings. The ministry’s priority is to demolish derelict buildings in neighborhoods closed to registry in the hope that it will deter foreigners from living there.
Underlining that no one will be displaced by force, Çataklı said that those whose neighborhood will be changed have been informed on the issue and given time ahead. He also emphasized that families will definitely not be separated during the change of location.
According to the deputy minister, people will be given around two months time to change their address and work with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) during this process. The temporary protection status of those that did not notify their new address after two months, will be halted, which will lead to these people not being able to get services from schools, hospitals and other institutions, which the ministry hopes will encourage the address notification process.
The government separately contacted nearly 3.7 million Syrians in Turkey, asking them to update their address details.
The move comes after hundreds of angry locals attacked Syrian homes and businesses and looted shops in Ankara’s Altındağ last year following reports that a Turkish teenager was stabbed to death in a fight allegedly with Syrians.
Some circles in Turkey have been fueling anti-refugee sentiment recently as news of a new Afghan migrant wave gathered steam, making the issue of migration once again fair game for political discussions. The main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has pledged frequently to send Syrian migrants and refugees in Turkey back to their war-torn homes within two years if he assumes office.
The prospect of a new influx of refugees following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has reinforced the unreceptive public mood. Videos purporting to show young Afghan men being smuggled into Turkey from Iran caused public outrage and led to calls for the government to safeguard the country’s borders.
Turkey hosts nearly 4 million refugees – more than any other country in the world. After the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, Turkey adopted an "open-door policy" for people fleeing the conflict, granting them "temporary protection" status.
Turkey has made large investments in social cohesion policies to help Syrians integrate into Turkish society smoothly.
Ankara so far has spent around $40 billion (TL 274 billion) on Syrians in Turkey, while the support from the European Union to Turkey for refugees has been only around 3 billion euros ($3.34 billion) from a promised 6 billion euros – a gap Turkey has long demanded be rectified.
Çataklı further highlighted that in order to solve the migration issue, the situation in countries that are the source of migration has to be enhanced through international cooperation and praised the role that Turkish NGOs play in aiding those in need across the world.
“We want that the problem of migration to be solved at its roots. There are many works that Turkey makes in this regard – in Syria, in Afghanistan. We also try to stop irregular migration at our borders.”
Çataklı said that a new implementation on granting temporary protection status to Syrians will be applied as the number of mostly male Syrians coming to Turkey due to economic reasons is increasing.
“We will not give directly temporary protection statuses to newly coming Syrians that are not registered. From now on, we will take these priorly to camps, and make research there on whether they need temporary protection or not and why they have come,” he said, reminding that many people come from regime-controlled Damascus and surrounding areas not because they are fleeing war or persecution but rather due to economic reasons.
Across Syria, the human cost of the war has been huge. More than 350,000 people have been killed and over half the population displaced, many of them from former rebel enclaves that were bombed into submission by Damascus and its allies.
But while the front lines have been largely frozen for years, an economic crisis is exacting an increasingly heavy toll across the fractured nation. The United Nations says the number of people in need of humanitarian support is greater than at any point since the war began.
Already hit by extensive damage to infrastructure and industries during the war, the once productive Syrian economy has nose-dived further since 2019 when contagion from neighboring Lebanon's financial crisis led the Syrian pound to collapse.
Saying that the population in areas rendered safe through Turkey’s operations is increasing, Çataklı said: “Around 486,000 people returned to Syria. A great part of this is that the refugees are returning to areas in which Turkey has established security through operations and which it has normalized.”
Since launching several operations in northern Syria to fight terrorism, Turkey has been supporting every aspect of life in the region, from health to education, security to agriculture. In this respect, efforts to clear bombs and improvised explosive devices were launched and administration duties were given to local councils.
The country also rolled up its sleeves to reconstruct hospitals, schools, mosques and roads destroyed by the YPG/PKK. Within the scope of ameliorating the region's social infrastructure, people were given food and clothing by several NGOs while roads and buildings were rebuilt. These efforts paid off as hundreds of displaced Syrians started to return to the liberated areas.
Within this scope, Turkey is also building briquette houses for Syrians in the northwestern Idlib province, the last opposition bastion.
Apart from those fleeing war, Çataklı said that some migrants come through visas but do not leave the country once their visa expires and instead destroy their passports, which renders it difficult to determine the origin of these people.
He elaborated that work to address this problem is underway in cooperation with the foreign ministry and that finger print devices are sent to institutions granting visas.
“We start to take finger prints in all countries in Africa where visas are given. Even if they destroy their identity documents after coming to Turkey, we will be able to determine who they are through their finger prints. Thereby I believe that we will in a great amount solve the problem of the transition from regular migration to irregular migration.”