Details of citizenship plans revealed followed by opposition criticism

Immigration and population offices in Turkish provinces have started to accept applications for citizenship from Syrian refugees amid the revelation of some of the procedural details of the application process.

While noting that it was not right to argue that 3 million Syrians would be granted Turkish citizenship tomorrow, a high-ranking official said, “Syrians were needed to provide for the needs of Syrians.”

According to the official, no changes will be made to the current regulation on granting citizenship.

Turkish citizenship can be granted in one of two ways. One is by obtaining rights and meeting the requirements for citizenship, and the other is through a cabinet decision for applicants who have yet to qualify for the right. The newly announced regulation concerns the second method of obtaining citizenship.

According to the regulation, the grants will be made to Syrians who have registered in Turkey, while the applicants will be subjected to extensive security checks.

The priority in the selection process is expected to be given to qualified Syrians who will contribute to Turkey’s efforts to provide assistance and services to the 3 million Syrian refugees in education and health areas.

Syrians who have invested in Turkey will also be given priority in the citizenship process, sources said.

Sources also said applicants’ integration into Turkish society would be a major criteria and that seven ministries would be responsible for fulfilling these criteria. Fourteen supporting institutions, NGOs and private sector associations will also contribute to Syrians’ integration in the areas of housing, education, health, the economy, labor, social cohesion, local governance, security and civil society.

If applicants meet these eight integration criteria, officials will then evaluate possible citizens in the categories of social adaptability, competency in Turkish, past criminal activity, as well as contributions to the country.
After the completion of all of these processes, applicants meeting the criteria will be evaluated by the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Administration and will be given a report.

At the same time, applicants will also need to obtain intelligence clearance.

The announcement of the regulation, meanwhile, has prompted reactions from Turkey’s opposition, with political party members interpreting it as a political step designed to facilitate the government’s efforts to alter the constitution and impose a presidential system.

“The AKP [Justice and Development Party] is clearly showing that it is thinking of its political prosperity rather than the lives of these oppressed people by looking from the viewpoint of religion and sect, its election calculations and its assimilation plans. The fact that some 3 million people could suddenly become citizens would create trauma in society,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Veli Ağbaba said.

“First of all, [it] would change the demographic structure in southeastern Anatolia. In a political meaning, 3 million people equals a 10 percent vote,” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy chair Semih Yalçın said.

“Creating new constituents based on a cheap labor force would only deepen biases against refugees and hate crimes. It is an operation that would produce a crucial change in representation rate,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Kars Deputy Ayhan Bilgen said.

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