Turkey Says It Won’t Be ‘Waiting Room’ for Afghan Refugees
(Bloomberg) -- Turkey on Wednesday blasted the U.S. for recommending that Afghans fearful of a vengeful Taliban seek asylum in America from third countries.
“Turkey does not, and will not, serve as any country’s waiting room,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, told Bloomberg on Wednesday. “We will continue to do everything in our power to preserve the safety of our borders.”
Advocates for Afghans who assisted the U.S. military and other coalition forces say they fear they’ll be killed by Taliban. Tens of thousands of Afghan families are already fleeing the group’s advances as American forces prepare to complete their withdrawal by the end of the month.
In recent days, the Biden administration began evacuating several hundred Afghans who worked for the U.S.-led coalition to the U.S., and it anticipates relocating thousands more. On Monday, the State Department said cases referred to its relocation program will be processed in third countries, and cited Turkey as a potential venue.
The number of people eligible for that program is limited, however, and Turkey fears many more Afghan refugees will reach its borders and remain there.
“We do not accept the irresponsible decision taken by the U.S. without consulting our country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said late Tuesday. “If the U.S. wants to take these people to its country, it is possible to transfer them directly to their country by planes.”
Turkey, he said, doesn’t have the capacity to take in more refugees. Anticipating a larger migration flow from Afghanistan, Turkey recently erected high concrete walls to seal parts of its eastern border with Iran, after doing similar in the south to reduce the number of migrants from Syria.
Turkey already hosts the world’s largest refugee population of about 6 million people, and as tens of thousands of Afghan refugees follow in the footsteps of Syrians and Iraqis, its hospitality has gone cold. An economic decline has made jobs short and prices rise, fanning anger at government policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The European Union recently announced billions of euros in additional financing to support Turkey for hosting refugees under program designed to prevent their migration to Europe.
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