ISTANBUL – The European Union and the UK are looking to Turkey to become a hub for processing Afghan refugees seeking asylum in Europe. Turkey is rejecting the call.
The Turkish government is rejecting calls from Europe to become a center for processing Afghan refugees. Government spokesman Omar Selik said on Monday that Turkey, already hosting about half a million refugees, mainly from the Syrian civil war, could not take any more.
Celik says Turkey does not have the capacity to take in another refugee. He said Turkey is not a refugee camp nor is it a transit point.
Celik’s comments were in response to British media reports on Sunday, citing Defense Ministry sources, who said London was looking at countries such as Turkey to build processing centers for Afghan refugees.
Similar suggestions were made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel in the past few days.
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Under a deal with the European Union, Turkey is already hosting nearly four million Syrian refugees from the civil war in exchange for billions of dollars in aid.
But analyst Asli Aydintasbas says the Turkish people are strongly against any new agreement on Afghan refugees.
“We have a situation in which Turkey and the European Union (are) negotiating such large sums of money as a refugee deal that Turkey gets to house refugees,” Aydintasbas said. “I think there’s a whole lot of outrage about Europe that Turkey is being used as a refugee camp on its borders, so to speak. People are upset about it. But it’s a big political one for Turkey. There is a cost. People are just questioning the government’s refugee policy.”
Outrage over the presence of refugees turned into violence earlier this month in a suburb of the capital Ankara, where hundreds of people attacked homes and shops of Syrian migrants.
Ankara is now ramping up efforts to secure its Iranian border, which is the main transit route for Afghans seeking to enter Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the construction of a barrier on the border would be expedited.
Additional Turkish forces are being deployed along the nearly 300-km-long Iranian border equipped with the latest surveillance equipment.
Hussein Ediz Terkanoglu, the head of Turkish security on the Iranian border, said on Monday that the border would be protected against any refugee escalation.
Terkanoglu said the Turkish military was operating in places where smuggling used to be common, with the entire area being monitored by 360-degree rotating thermal cameras. He said that if there is any movement, troops can be sent there.
Such force is mainly used to send a message to the Turkish public and Europe, tired of the presence of millions of refugees, that Turkey will not be host to another large-scale influx of refugees.