Turkey is preparing to offer citizenship to Syrian refugees, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday in a move that could cause deep domestic divisions and complicate a deal with Brussels to halt the flow of migrants to Europe.
Speaking in Kilis, a town in southern Turkey that has seen its population doubled by those fleeing the civil war in neighbouring Syria, the Turkish leader said that the country's interior ministry was taking steps to offer citizenship to those who wanted it.
"Tonight, I want to give some good news to my brothers and sisters here," he said at a meal to break the Ramadan fast attended by Syrian refugees. "Among our brothers and sisters, I believe there are those who would like to obtain citizenship of the Turkish Republic. Our interior ministry is taking steps in that regard." He added: "Turkey is your home, too."
Mr Erdogan did not specify whether all of the 2.7m refugees registered as living in Turkey would be able to apply for citizenship, nor did he set out the eligibility criteria or how long the process would take. While Turkey announced in January that it would grant Syrians the right to apply for work permits if their employer will sponsor them, human rights groups say that uptake has been minimal.