Sourced : Al Monitor

By Mehmet Cetingulec

The political value of 3.5 million refugees in Turkey, including 3 million Syrians, appears to be on the rise. Refugees could emerge as a crucial pool of voters in the three elections — municipal, parliamentary and presidential — in 2019. How can this happen?

The first group of 252 refugees fleeing the unrest in Syria crossed into Turkey on April 29, 2011. Their number reached 150,000 at the end of 2012 and 1.9 million in 2014. As of April 29, 2016, the refugees began to obtain the right to apply for Turkish citizenship, having completed the five-year waiting period.

Only 252 people obtained that right last year, but the figure will reach 150,000 at the end of 2017 and 1.9 million in 2019. Taking into account refugees from Iraq, other Middle Eastern countries and Africa, the total could well exceed 2 million.

Citizenship applications require the approval of the Council of Ministers. Given the government’s welcoming approach to refugees so far, the approval issue is not likely to emerge as an obstacle.

A number of measures concerning refugees — the collection of their fingerprints, the issuance of biometric ID cards and work permits, and steps to resolve their health care, education and accommodation problems — could all be seen as preparations for citizenship. Granting citizenship to the Syrian and other refugees would mean a 2.5% increase in Turkey’s population of about 80 million.


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