Turkey Cares About Afghan Refugees But Isn't Ready For Yet Another Influx, Here's Why
There are 400,000 Afghan refugees in Turkey and the state provides them with housing and medical services, putting a burden on the Turkish economy. And this is why another wave of asylum seekers might be devastating for Ankara.
Thousands of people are still scrambling to flee Afghanistan, just a day after the Taliban*, an Islamic group deemed a terrorist organisation by many international players, announced
the formation of their government.
According to reports
, more than 123,000 civilians, including thousands of Afghans, have been evacuated by the US since mid-August. Some 8,000 others were airlifted by the UK, and the United Nations has already warned that up to half a million people could flee the war-torn country by the end of this year.
The UN has also urged neighbouring states to keep their borders open to give those who want to flee an opportunity to do so.
The problem is that not many are listening. Neighbouring Pakistan
, where an already sizeable Afghan community (more than 1.4 million) resides, has refused to take in any more refugees.
A similar situation is being observed in Uzbekistan
, where the authorities have said they are not willing to admit any Afghans seeking refuge on their territory.
And they are not alone. Recently, it was reported that Greece
is constructing a 40-kilometre fence to protect itself from potential refugees seeking a safe haven in Europe.
is taking similar measures. At the end of August, it announced that it would strengthen its border with Iran to stop the influx of Afghans fleeing Taliban rule. The country has also constructed a 155-kilometre stretch of a planned 241-kilometre wall.
Refugees Come With a High Price Tag
Tanya Goudsouzian, a Canadian journalist who has been covering Afghanistan for nearly two decades, says she understands the actions taken by the Turkish government.
"There are nearly 4 million Syrian refugees
, close to 400,000 Afghan refugees, and over 100,000 Iraqi refugees in Turkey. It would be hard to argue that Turkey is not doing its part to assist refugees".
"But there are internal considerations, too. Housing, feeding, and providing healthcare to these people can take a toll on any country's economy and resources. Turkey is already at maximum capacity regarding the refugee issue and does not have the necessary capabilities to accommodate another massive influx", she added.
Ankara's concerns are not limited to economic issues only. Turkish authorities are also wary of their country's security if another wave of Afghan refugees hits their borders.
In the past, extremist organisations such as Daesh* have used refugee crises to infiltrate
a number of European states with the aim of carrying out their terrorist activity, and Ankara is wary they might do so again, destabilising the situation in Turkey.
"The recent ISIS-K attack that left more than 100 dead in Kabul was a very worrying development for Turkey", said Goudsouzian, referring to the August airport assault carried out by Daesh.
"When we look at the major ISIS attacks that were carried out in Turkey, the perpetrators were of Central Asian descent. Any destabilisation or radicalisation that can spread from Afghanistan into Central Asia has the potential to impact Turkey's national security", she added.
Does Turkey have the necessary tools to deal with such organisations as Daesh? Goudsouzian is doubtful and that's why, she says, the Turkish government is exerting diplomatic efforts to make certain that terrorists don't reach their borders.
At the same time, the journalist says, they are working hard to help the Afghan people to get the assistance they need.
"The solution to the migrant crisis is not to airlift the whole country out of Afghanistan but to support steps to provide security and stability for the Afghan people".
"Operating the airport and ensuring the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid is an important first step in this regard... international commercial flights are not likely to resume without the guarantee of Turkish security, and an international diplomatic presence may depend upon it as well".
*The Taliban and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) are terrorist organisations banned in Russia and many other countries.