Q&A: The refugee policies of Turkish political parties

Gonca Tokyol
June 21, 2022

The questions we sent:

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?

The answer we got:

Republican People's Party – CHP
Responses by Ünal Çeviköz, CHP group spox at GNAT Committee on Foreign Affairs

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
Along with the government change, steps to ensure Syrian refugees' planned, organized and honorable returns will be carefully taken. Volunteering will be the core of this strategy. Providing sustainable living conditions for those who choose to return is an important topic.

Infrastructure investments will be made, and we will create education, health and job opportunities. There will be incentives for Turkish businesspeople to make investments that will create jobs in Syria, and we will work in coordination with the international community. Opening a dialogue channel with the Syrian government is also essential. The safety of returnees depends on it.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
The EU does not have a standard migration policy. This should change. Turkey and the EU should collaborate on a migration policy with agreements protecting common interests. Turkey should neither be a transit country nor the last stop of the migration route, and the EU should accept that. In the agreements made so far, the government has not been able to adequately defend Turkey's interests, leaving our country under a burden.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
We should approach the refugee issue with a sensitivity that won’t put them the focus of social unrest or instability. Education, health, and similar needs must be met. Otherwise, the issue can quickly become a security problem. At this stage, EU funding for refugees is essential.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
The uncontrolled refugee influx should be considered a security problem. Turkey should establish a controlled migration policy. There should be records of who lives where and what kind of activities they do if they integrate with the society.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
Forcible returns are never considered. Returns should be encouraged, and measures should be taken to do that.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
Granting citizenship is a legal issue. It is necessary to distinguish between the legally-given ones and those that are exceptionally distributed. Obtaining citizenship comes with certain obligations. First of all, there is an obligation to be a taxpayer. Therefore, the prevention of an uninsured, illegal, and unsafe job black market can be achieved with citizenship.

There are certain conditions and a legal process to lose citizenship. An act such as without any reason can be seen as neither lawful nor humane.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
The capacities of the camps are not enough to accommodate all the refugees in Turkey, so the refugees spread to different cities. But there should be a track record system for them.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
The first step should be to obtain basic statistical information such as the number of these people, their status, where they live, whether they have obtained citizenship, and whether they have established a business or not. The government does not share sound information with the public on this issue. Therefore, there is a need for institutionalization to enable the refugee issue to be carefully monitored. That's the priority.

Democracy and Progress Party – DEVA
Responses by Abdurrahman Bilgiç, deputy chairman of Foreign and Security Affairs

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
YES. First, we will ensure fair burden-sharing and facilitate the Syrians' departure to safe third countries. In addition, we will support their voluntary return and implement incentive policies. Our main goal is to make Syria a safe country, eliminate the necessity of temporary protection, and ensure that Syrians go back to their country.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
Agreements with the EU must be renewed through negotiations, and EU countries have to increase their refugee quotas. Turkey shouldn’t be a buffer zone for refugees. EU funds can be used for incentives on voluntary returns.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
Aids can be sustained by sharing responsibility and burden until refugees go to third countries or return to their own countries. A system in which these people live only on aid is unacceptable.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
Turkey has to prevent and preclude human trafficking or smuggling and illegal border crossings. It is clear that there is a need for regional and international cooperation in this regard.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
With the disappearance of the conditions requiring temporary protection, the return of Syrians and all foreigners whose international protection applications have been rejected should be ensured.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
The exceptional citizenship practice must end. Citizenship of those who do not meet the necessary conditions should be revoked. Accepting an application for international or temporary protection does not grant citizenship to any foreigner.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
They should live in places determined by the public authority, according to the conditions determined for them.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
When we come to power, we will implement a National Immigration Policy prepared in cooperation with institutions, where all stakeholders come together. It will ensure border security and prevent illegal entry. By ensuring that international and temporary protection applications conclude quickly, those who are rejected will be returned to their countries, and foreigners with illegal status will be identified and sent back.

A strong foreign policy will be implemented so that the temporary protection conditions will disappear and the Syrians will return to their homes. Foreigners whose asylum applications are accepted will stay in our country for a period and under conditions appropriate to their status.

Felicity Party – Saadet Partisi
Responses by Fatih Aydın, deputy chairman

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
It would not be right to answer this simply by saying "yes" or "no." After all, refugees are here because of a reason, and these people are primarily concerned about their safety. In the Syrian issue, the steps to be taken to establish peace and our approach will promote refugees' return. Our aim is to maximize the return of refugees and initiate an integration process for those who will stay.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
The Readmission Agreement was not in Turkey’s favor. Keeping refugees in Turkey with financial support means treating the country as a "concentration camp." European countries should open their doors to refugees.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
With the right planning, “yes.” Aids should be continued for those in real need, but the best help for the refugee issue is to take the right steps to resolve the Syrian crisis.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
In the case of innocent people, it is not possible. However, we have security and intelligence issues. Borders should be closed to uncontrolled and irregular arrivals.

Outside of Syria, a lot of people cross our border with Iran. This problem will be easily solved with a correct foreign policy approach and cooperation with regional states and our neighbors.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
No, and this is also not legally possible. Turkey should initiate a process that will solve its problems with Syria. After all, there are people who were born and raised in our country in the past 12 years. We have a significant number of citizens who have married Syrians.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
No. There is a reason why these people came to our country. There may be exceptions, but these are people who are expected to return with solutions to their problems in their country.

We need certain criteria for citizenship. However, in the current crisis environment, this issue is more on the agenda in terms of political interests. This takes the problem to another dimension.

Turkey needs to determine a citizenship policy independent of refugees.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
In cities. But distribution and demographic planning must be done. Considering Turkey's current conditions, camps are isolating, costly, and unsustainable. People are still coming to Turkey. It is not right to confine them to camps for an uncertain time.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
The first thing we will do is to seek common ground with the Syrian administration and other actors in the region and thus create the necessary infrastructure for the return of refugees.

Future Party – Gelecek Partisi
Responses by Abdullah Başçı, deputy chairman

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
Refugees in Turkey can be separated into the ones who came from Syria and those who flocked to the country from different parts of the world.

At first, it was an Ansar-Muhajareen relationship, but the situation went beyond this and became a matter of survival. Syrians should be sent after the establishment of safe zones.

The young people who see that the border is uncontrolled in Van and enter Turkey carrying only a bag should be identified and sent to their origin countries immediately.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
We agree with the framework of the agreement made by our party’s chairman Ahmet Davutoğlu with the EU in 2016. However, we oppose the agreements made afterward, which are not in Turkey's interest and give the impression of "Let's send money, let the refugees stay."

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
Policies should be developed to bring refugees to a point where they won’t be in need of aid anymore, rather than Turkey continuing aid. Of course, help will be provided to those in need in certain situations, but it should not be done in a systematic way.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
There are problematic states on our borders. Iranian border is almost only for show, and this should be avoided. People shouldn’t come to Turkey freely. There should be a control mechanism for border-crossings. The massive influx of refugees must be prevented.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
We have huge numbers of refugees in Turkey, and in some provinces, there are more refugees than locals. However, these people don’t want to return to their countries since they are not safe, and we think that if these problems are resolved, most of them will go back voluntarily.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
Giving citizenship in return for money is a very wrong practice. This creates a very wrong impression on Turkey both domestically and internationally. This must be stopped immediately. The conditions of citizenship are clear, and it is absolutely unacceptable to exchange it for money.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
Camps. Uncontrolled crossings are very common at our borders at the moment, and those people shouldn’t be mingling with city life without supervision. Problems occur every day in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district and other places. To prevent such incidents, refugees should be located in separated living areas.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
We have a long-term program rather than day-to-day policies on the issue. We will ensure the security of our borders and send Syrians back to their homeland within the framework of the readmission agreement. We will do this on a voluntary basis, not by force.

Homeland Party – Memleket Partisi
Responses by Gaye Usluer, former general vice-chairman

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
Yes. The current refugee problem results from the wrong policies of AKP and its approach that allows everyone to enter the country under the name of open door/hospitality policy without creating comprehensive refugee policies.

The fact that Turkey is a side in the Syrian war impedes the formation of a dialogue between the two countries. Our priority is to start negotiations with the Syrian government, to have an embassy in Damascus, and to discuss the "refugee issue" between the two countries.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
The “readmission agreement” made with the EU and the financial support Turkey gets ties our hands. If a common international policy cannot be established, abandoning this agreement should be considered an option.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
Aids must be sustained within the framework of international norms and agreements. However, the case of informal/cheap and uncontrolled labor should be resolved quickly. A country with an unemployment rate of 13 percent shouldn’t be exposing its citizens to unfair competition.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
Yes. It is unacceptable for our borders to become places where whoever wants can cross. Turkey needs to establish an urgent refugee policy that prioritizes its national interests and shows determination on the matter. The integration policies for the population that will stay in our country and which we cannot send need to be handled accurately and realistically.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
The humanitarian dimension of the incident must be addressed, and international law must be observed. It is not possible to fill in the concept of "forced deportation," especially for the ones who have been living in Turkey for more than 10 years. What is more dangerous is that this issue becomes a card in domestic politics or election material.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
The citizenship issue should not be a part of politics. The conditions and legal framework of citizenship in Turkey are clear, but it is not clear what criteria AKP applies and how many people are granted citizenship. It is not possible to answer this question without transparency on this issue.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
Entrance and settlements of refugees should (have been) determined by the state. Whether we call it a camp or not, the arbitrary and out-of-control settlement is a problem today. Its heavy social/economic/cultural consequences will be exacerbated in the future.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
First of all, we will conduct a comprehensive study on refugees’ distribution in the country and conduct a transparent analysis of the current problems. We will work with the Syrian government without ignoring the political and sociological dimensions of the event to send Syrians back and by including the international agreements with prioritizing our country's interests.

The rhetoric that we will send refugees by force or voluntarily with drums and horns is just political discourse. They have no real meaning.

Labor Party – EMEP
Responses by Aysel Ebru Ökten, migration and refugees office

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
Giving a single answer for all the refugees is not possible. For example, those who have committed war crimes or are involved in femicide should be deported. Besides that, they shouldn’t be sent back until the conditions are convenient and the humanitarian situation is picked up.

In addition, it is unacceptable to send people back to Syria, where the war continues with low intensity, or to Afghanistan, where the Taliban threaten people with death. Returns can only take place when peace and humanitarian conditions are established under the auspices of international institutions.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
Yes. The agreements with the EU have not produced anything other than making Turkey a refugee depot by making them bargaining subjects. Therefore, the Readmission Agreement should be canceled immediately.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
Refugees in Turkey do not have a homogeneous mix. Therefore, it should be ensured these people - the majority are workers and laborers, live in humane conditions, and integration policies should be developed. EU-funded projects or Syrians' access to education and health services should continue to be expanded. In order to create a way for coexistence and prevent local people from the threads emerging from the current situation, egalitarian conditions should be provided.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
No. Borders should remain open to those who are at risk of persecution, threatened with death, or exposed to war and conflicts. However, there should be a control mechanism for border crossings under international surveillance.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
Forced return is against human dignity and international conventions. Returns can only take place after conditions for a voluntary return are met, and there are examples in the world of this.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
Citizenship should not be a status that can be sold for money. We know that only 900 thousand children among Syrians were born in Turkey and continue to grow up here. These children are from Turkey. Therefore, citizenship can be given to people who accept the conditions of coexistence and integrate with the indigenous society, who are not involved in war crimes or crimes against women, instead of being sold for money.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
Refugees should not be in camps. It is not human and also hinders the inclusion and coexistence process. The power and budget to be devoted to sheltering and isolating millions of people in camps should be devoted to integration policies.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
In order to end the migration and ensure safe return conditions, the imperialists must withdraw from the region, the war must end, and Turkey must turn its face to peace and follow a peaceful foreign policy.

Safe return routes should be opened for those who want to leave. Syrians' temporary status, which has been going on for 11 years, should come to an end, temporary protection status should be abolished, the citizenship process should be started with those who want, and refugee status should be granted to people coming from outside Europe by removing Turkey's geographical reservation.

The "Readmission Agreement" should be annulled and the status of refugees should be no longer negotiable.

Refugees who have to work in Turkey should be given a "work permit" as a direct right, and threatening local workers with refugee workers should be stopped.

In order to abolish capitalism, local and refugee workers must fight together. Obstacles to the organization of local and refugee workers should be removed. Integration and inclusion policies should be developed.

Patriotic Party – Vatan Partisi
Responses by Özgür Bursalı, secretary-general

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
Syrians who had to migrate should safely return to their homeland. It is a necessity for those people, whose relatives, lands, longing, homeland, and businesses are in Syria. US imperialism’s plan to divide Syria had displaced these people. If territorial integrity, peace, and security are ensured in Syria, the obligation that forces them to be here will be eliminated.

Turkey should conduct cooperation with Syria immediately. PKK/YPG and other US-led terrorist organizations will be cleared in northern Syria. Syria's territorial integrity will be ensured. Conditions will be created within three months for the refugees to return. The Assad administration is also willing to end the PKK, and comprehensive amnesties contribute significantly to this process.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
No. The refugee issue cannot be resolved at the gates of Europe through agreements made or to be made with the EU. The USA and the EU are the sources of the refugee problem.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
Yes. The people's access to basic human rights is under the guarantee of our state, regardless of their origin or beliefs. Aids should continue for the elderly, disabled, and the ones in need of care. However, instead of aid and charity culture, the main solution should be to include Syrian refugees in the workforce and make them a part of the production processes.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
No. It is very wrong to see all the people coming to Turkey as harmful elements. The Turkish Republic has an imperial heritage and a revolutionary tradition. The incorporation abilities of the Turkish people are very strong, and this nation was formed by merging. Our doors should be open to people who come from abroad and work in Turkey and participate in the development of Turkey.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
No. The vast majority of Syrian refugees will return to their countries thanks to our plan. Those who do not meet the necessary conditions and who have lost their asylum qualifications will be obliged to return. Apart from that, it is wrong to use force against the people who have obtained citizenship in Turkey, contributed to the economy, and want to stay. No one has the power for forced returns.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
Laws for Turkish citizenship are clear. Citizenship should not be given to everyone who took refuge in Turkey. Revocation of the given citizenship is only possible with the decision of the relevant institutions in case of non-compliance with the conditions specified in the law.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
Refugees in Turkey should live in their own cities after Syria's territorial integrity is ensured. The camps or safe zones in Syria are under the Turkish Army’s control. Refugees in that region do not return to Syria but to the places controlled by Turkey. Moreover, they are in need of aid from Turkey. Instead of creating a safe zone in northern Syria, the strategy should be to end the PKK. The local assemblies or cantons are significant threats to Turkey's security. They undermine the territorial integrity of Syria and isolate Turkey against the US-Israeli threat in the Eastern Mediterranean.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
Our first step will be cooperating with Syria immediately. Our leader Doğu Perinçek has met with Bashar Assad in 2015. We still have very close relations with the Syrian state. Recently, Mr. Perinçek discussed Turkey-Syria cooperation and deep-rooted solutions with Syria's Foreign Minister. The Minister said that there are no preconditions for meeting with Turkey. The Syrian administration trusts the Patriotic Party most among others in the country.

Left Party – Sol Parti
Responses by Önder İşleyen, member of the board of presidents

Should refugees in Turkey be sent back? (YES/NO) When and how?
This question, in fact, covers the source of the problem and its solution. We should discuss a solution that focuses primarily on stopping the destruction of Syria. With the new operation, AKP tries to take a new step in its policy of dividing Syria. It is necessary to establish the basis of dialogue with the Syrian regime and to create the conditions for a democratic and humane transition in Syria. In such a dialogue and democratic construction, voluntary return possibilities should be created as a priority.

Should Turkey continue with current EU refugee agreements? (YES/NO)
No. The West turned Turkey into a refugee prison with the Readmission Agreement. The AKP government uses refugees both as an income and as a bargaining tool. One of the solutions to the refugee issue is the cancellation of the Readmission Agreement.

Should aid to refugees be continued? (YES/NO)
Yes. Refugees are not responsible for the economic crisis we are experiencing today, nor for the high cost and poverty that is the result of it. Moreover, most of these people’s countries were destroyed with the support of the imperialist centers, especially the USA, and the AKP. A significant part of these people had to migrate and they have the right to a humane life and shelter.

Should Turkey completely close its borders? (YES/NO)
AKP governments have pursued a conscious open-door policy. One of the most important reasons for this was to create a transit base for the jihadists who were the reason for the destruction in Syria. Erdoğan also left the borders completely open in order to retain a population power that would tear Syria apart.

On the other hand, when we look at the immigration from Afghanistan, for example, a significant part of them fought for the USA and migrated in reconciliation with the USA. In this sense, it is unacceptable that all control at the borders has been abolished and shaped in line with the political goals of the AKP. Boundaries should of course be transformed into a controlled area, and crossings should be made in this way.

Is forcible return a possibility for refugees? (YES/NO)
Turkey hosts a significant number of war criminals. Jihadist gangs first settled in camps and then different locations. In some places, a kind of jihadist ghettos were created. Therefore, we need a classification for everyone's status. War criminals, ISIS, and Nusra remnant jihadist gangs should be identified and deported. Opportunities for voluntary return should be created for those left out, and the gates to the West should be opened.

Should Turkey grant citizenship to refugees? Should granted citizenships be revoked? (YES/NO)
The AKP government has turned citizenship into a commodity that can be bought by those who have money. On the other hand, AKP considers this as a reserve force for its government. Therefore, these criteria, the frameworks determined by the current government, cannot be accepted. This whole framework must be redefined under a democratic, pro-public, secular integration program and plan.

Where should refugees in Turkey live? (CAMPS/CITIES)
It's a little late to talk about this since we had already lost the thread. In the future, we should oppose any step that will change the demographic structure in the country and work to create better conditions for everyone.

What will be the first step your party will take on the refugee issue when it comes to power?
Turkey's foreign policy will be reviewed and all decisions that are in favor of US imperialism or have conqueror-jihadist goals will be annulled. We will start a peaceful dialogue with the Syrian regime in a policy based on peace with neighbors and cancel the Readmission Agreement.