Over 700,000 Syrians born in Turkey since war began: Minister

Over 700,000 Syrian babies were born in Turkey since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has said. Shortly after these remarks, main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said that under an opposition-led government, Syrians living in Turkey would be sent back to the war-torn country within two years.

Duvar English 

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has slammed those criticizing the government's policy with regards to the refugee issue, saying that over 700,000 Syrians were born in Turkey since the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

The minister made the comments on July 10 during a program held as part of the Eid al-Adha holiday.

He said that Turkey is dealing with a “heavy responsibility and burden” in the face of the refugee crisis and “doing its best.” “Turkey is managing the migration. It is fighting with irregular and illegal migration. It is doing this with a policy but also with conscience and compassion,” Soylu said, adding that Turkey was being “targeted” by external powers and going through a “test.”

“We know what kind of a test we are in. No one can expect us to stay silent in the face of such acts. Over 700,000 of our Syrian brothers were born in this country. This is a big richness,” he said. 

In the face of these remarks, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu once again vowed to send Syrians back to their country should his party assume power in the upcoming elections.

“We are looking at the issue from the perspective of our country's future. Yes, every nation's biggest richness is its babies. And these [Syrian] babies are the richness of Syria that is in ruins,” Kılıçdaorğlu said in a tweet.

“For Syria to stand on its feet again, its children should go back to their motherland. But I have always said this and will say it again: this is not something that will be done with a cheap racist attitude, but it will be done with proper state wisdom.”

Kılıçdarğlu said that under an opposition-led government, the return of Syrians to the war-torn country would be completed in two years. “They will go under healthy conditions; all of the steps are ready. This process will be completed in two years during our reign. And these conditions will be formed with the EU funding, with us being the guarantor. They [Syrians] will go with drums and trumpets,” he said.

The issue of refugees and immigrants has become a lynchpin of the planned 2023 elections in Turkey. The country officially houses over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, the lion’s share of its 4 million-person refugee population. Many refugees, Syrian and otherwise, living in the country work in informal sectors for wages far below minimum wage, which many blame for wage depreciation in Turkey. 

In recent years, anti-refugee sentiment has risen in Turkey, as a spate of violent attacks took place against Syrians.