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Erdogan’s citizenship offer fans flames of anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey

Turkey's polarized public appears to have found a common cause against a proposed offer of citizenship and preferential treatment for Syrian refugees.
Syrian refugees wait for transportation after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 10, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal - RTX1FYOZ

Thanks to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the plight of the 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey has once again become the subject of an acrimonious debate. Erdogan announced on July 2 that the government was working on offering citizenship to Syrians. He did so while addressing a crowd of Syrians in the southeastern town of Kilis, near the Syrian border, which has borne the brunt of the Syrian conflict more than any other place in the country. “I want to give you good news tonight,” Erdogan said. “There are those among our brothers and sisters who I believe want to become citizens. Our Interior Ministry is taking steps for this.”

Returning July 11 from a NATO summit in Warsaw, Erdogan tried to clarify the matter by telling reporters on his plane that what was actually being proposed was dual citizenship for the Syrians, who could later decide which country they preferred to live in. That aside, he ended up further fueling the public debate by saying that the Syrians could be lodged in housing built by Turkey’s Mass Housing Authority (TOKI), which provides low-cost housing for lower-income groups.

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