World, Europe

Turkish minority in UK ready for Thursday’s polls

Main issues that will shape Turkish vote are Islamophobia, health services, education, housing and unemployment

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal   | 11.12.2019
Turkish minority in UK ready for Thursday’s polls

LONDON

As Britain heads to the polls Thursday for the third time in four years, voting by the country’s Turkish minority will be shaped by political parties’ policies toward Islamophobia and minorities.

Approach to Islamophobia to shape Muslim vote in UK

Approach to Islamophobia to shape Muslim vote in UK

Around 400,000 Cypriot Turks and 200,000 Turks live mostly in the north London neighborhoods of Dalston, Stoke Newington, Haringey, Walthamstow and Enfield. 

Lawyer Hakan Camuz, chairman of the non-governmental organization Nomos, thinks parties’ immigration policies will be the most significant issue for Turks in the U.K.

Camuz said the leading Conservative Party is prepared to bring radical changes to immigration policies.

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks about this openly. They will bring in a point-based system. They are imitating Australia,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Camuz said the work visa for Turkish citizens, which is based on the 1963 Ankara Agreement, will probably be deemed non-functional as a result of Brexit, signaling the Brexit policies of Johnson.

He said those who get married in Turkey and would like to bring their families to the U.K. can also expect big changes to immigration policies.

Underlining that the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn has a softer approach to minorities and immigration, Camuz said the Tories are set to win the election as the gap between the two parties is huge according to opinion polls.

Camuz noted that another issue related to the Turkish and Muslim communities is Islamophobia.

“There is a fast-changing Islamophobia in the U.K. now. This was not an issue that we were much acquainted with before, but now there is a problem of Islamophobia we experience intensely,” he said.

Camuz said political parties have pledged to tackle Islamophobia during election campaigns, but their actions after the elections need to be seen.

Austerity measures and health services are two other issues closely related to the Turkish community in the U.K., according to Camuz.

He underlined that there are worries that the Tories would end the free treatment by the health services after the election.

Ibrahim Altun, a Turkish businessman who has lived in the U.K. for the last 27 years, thinks this election was “inevitable” as the leading Conservative Party has “dragged the country into chaos” with the 2016 Brexit referendum.

“Nobody can predict what kind of results will come when ending a 46-year-long partnership,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Altun said he feels closer to the Labour Party, as “they pledge improvements in health services, privatization, cost of living and minimum pay.”

“This country has basic problems to be addressed…Two main problems are education and health. A student owes as much as an amount that would buy a house after graduation from university. Some prefer to start working instead of going to university to avoid debt. This is a fear for the young population.”

Also speaking about the problematic health system, Altun said: “I try not to go to the hospital when I am sick. The health system has collapsed. It is a disaster for the world’s 5th biggest economy to wait for an operation for seven or eight months.”

Health services, housing and unemployment are the main issues to be addressed, per Mustafa Demir, chairman of the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MUSIAD) in the U.K.

Demir said the Turks would decide which party to vote for, in relation with the local problems they have, but their votes will be determined nationally with party politics about Islamophobia.

Underlining that there are more than 2 million Muslim voters, including Turks, this figure corresponds as 13%-15 % of overall voters across the U.K.

“The candidates have taken more seriously the demands of Muslims and Turks for the last 15 years,” Demir said, adding: “This makes us glad.”

Also speaking about Brexit, Demir said the departure of the U.K. from the European Union would cause problems for Turkish businessmen in terms of imports and exports as Turkey is in the customs union with the bloc.

“This is a Brexit election,” he said.

“We businessmen of MUSIAD are in favor of an election result that would result in a soft Brexit.”

Voters in the U.K. will head to the polls on Thursday, Dec. 12.


*Writing by Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

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