The mayor of the small Turkish town of Bolu has put up banners in Arabic and Turkish issuing a “last call” and ordering Syrian refugees to return to their country and leave Turkiye.
Tanju Ozcan, the mayor of Bolu in the north-west of the country, yesterday shared images of the banners targeting “temporary refugees from Bolu Municipality”, telling them that “Eleven years ago you said you came to our country as guests . The Turkish nation has been protecting you with its scarce resources for years. You have exceeded your reception.”
Referring to the economic crisis that has plagued Turkiye in recent years, the banner continued: “You see the economic depression in our country. Our youth are unemployed, families live below the poverty line. Under these conditions we have no more.” Bread and water to share with you. It’s time you go as you came. You are no longer wanted, return to your country.”
In his Twitter post with the banners, Ozcan explained: “We wrote and spoke in Turkish many times. You didn’t get it. We wrote in a language that both the government and the invaders could understand. It’s enough.”
Türkçe defalarca yazdık söyledik. Anlamadılar. Bizde hem iktidarın hem istilacıların anlayacağı dilden yazdık. Artik !!! pic.twitter.com/7xOt2W33NR
— Tanju ÖZCAN (@tanjuozcanchp) May 18, 2022
Since winning the post of Bolu mayor in 2019, Ozcan has been a particularly controversial figure who has attempted to implement a range of discriminatory measures against refugees in the city and its surrounding areas. For example, after winning and assuming his post, his first act was to cut welfare payments to refugees and migrants in the province.
Also last year, he passed legislation to increase the cost of water bills for refugees and migrants by 11 times and increase marriage certificate fees for foreigners in the province. All of these actions were an attempt by Ozcan to discourage foreigners – particularly Syrian refugees – from settling in Bolu.
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In addition to outrage and severe criticism from parts of Turkish society and rights groups, there was also legal and democratic resistance to his policies. In January, an administrative court in Bolu province issued an injunction against its discriminatory refugee policies.
In November, his own party – the Republican People’s Party (CHP) – also launched disciplinary proceedings against the mayor.
Recently, today, Turkey‘s Human Rights and Equality Institution (TIHEK) reportedly ruled that Ozcan’s policies violated the country’s anti-discrimination ban and imposed an administrative fine of TL 40,000 (US$2,519).
The spread of refugee policies in Bolu can also be attributed to the political parties that have been battling the province, with the CHP mayor ousting the previous mayor – Alaaddin Yilmaz – who was a member of the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). . .
Unlike the AKP, which aims to encourage Syrian refugees to voluntarily return to their country as soon as it is safe and stable enough in a phased process, the CHP and its leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu have guaranteed that they will forcibly deport all refugees back to Syria when they come to power.
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