As hostility grows, Erdogan says Turkey will continue to host Syrians
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President and chairman of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, speaks during an AK Party parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly defended hosting refugees from neighbouring Syria amid increasingly hostile sentiment in the country. Mustafa Kamaci/Turkish Presidency /dpa
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President and chairman of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, speaks during an AK Party parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly defended hosting refugees from neighbouring Syria amid increasingly hostile sentiment in the country. Mustafa Kamaci/Turkish Presidency /dpa

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly defended hosting refugees from neighbouring Syria amid increasingly hostile sentiment in the country.

"They cannot return to their home country, even if they wished. But we would never and will never expel them from this soil," Erdogan said in Istanbul on Monday.

Addressing opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, he added: "We will stand up to the end for our brothers who have fled the war in Syria and sought refuge in our country, Mr Kemal!"

Turkey would continue to host refugees and won't hand over the Syrians "to the murderers," Erdogan said.

Kilicdaroglu and other politicians had announced they would send back Syrian refugees if they win next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

However, the debate on migrants living in Turkey is mainly being fuelled by the small far-right Victory Party. As the country grapples with a worsening economic crisis, resentment mainly against Syrian and Afghan refugees living in Turkey has intensified recently.

According to figures released by the Interior Ministry in February, Turkey is home to 3.7 million refugees from Syria.

Last week, Erdogan said that preparations were being made to enable 1 million refugees to return home voluntarily.

The focus is particularly on sending them to regions in northern Syria, where Ankara occupies border areas.