Ekrem İmamoğlu, who was elected İstanbul mayor according to unofficial results of local elections held on March 31, has said he wants the Syrian refugees living in İstanbul to go back to their homes in Syria, the Diken news website reported on Friday.
Addressing his supporters in İstanbul’s Avcılar district, İmamoğlu said there are nearly 1 million Syrian refugees in İstanbul and that he would devise policies regarding their future once he takes office.
İmamoğlu, who is from the ranks of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has not yet been given the mandate to govern due to objections lodged by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to the election results.
“Syrian refugees might have been brought to this country and city — 3.5 million of them — as a means of changing the population and going beyond just being refugees. Those who made that decision at the time [to allow Syrians to seek refuge in Turkey] are aware of this mistake now. But we want Syrian refugees to go back home,” said İmamoğlu.
In December 2018, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that Turkey was hosting some 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have taken shelter in Turkey due to an ongoing civil war in Syria, which broke out in 2011.
Recently, the newly elected mayor of Bolu from the ranks of the CHP banned the provision of municipal aid to Syrian refugees in the city as his first act as mayor, attracting criticism from some human rights groups.