Afghan refugees enter fourth week of protests over asylum status in Turkey
An Afghan refugee protests with her lips sewn in Ankara.Afghan refugees in Turkey entered their 25th day of protests outside the front of the headquarters of the U.N. Refugee Agency in Ankara on May 8, demanding their right to asylum and a fair application procedure.
Among the protesters were a group of 12 Afghans who launched a hunger strike by sewing their mouths together in order to denounce the inhumane conditions they have been put through.
Around 40 children are also living in makeshift tents alongside their families who are protesting against their conditions.
In a public statement, protesters stressed that the applications of some Afghan asylum-seekers had been suspended for one-and-a-half years.
“We do not accept such inattention and violations against the rights of Afghan refugees ... all over Turkey,” the group said in a statement on May 6.
Refugees also pointed to the fact that delays in the review of their applications prevent them in applying to other countries for asylum.
During the interval, refugees are unable to find legal work as they do not have asylum status and are also unable to migrate to another country.
Afghan refugees claim they are discriminated against, as their applications take an average of seven to eight years. Meanwhile, refugees from other countries are usually reviewed within two or three years.
New arrivals stopped
According to claims, one of the reasons of the reluctance of officials to give Afghans asylum status is the presence of 2 million Afghan refugees in Iran. Some consider that fastening asylum procedures would open the way for refugees in Iran to seek asylum via Turkey.
“The UNHCR must explain why it has suspended working on the new arrival Afghan refugees to Turkey for 2 years,” the group said.
“The problem of Afghan refugees in Turkey is not just a Turkish problem or a UNHCR problem. The international community is failing us,” the statement also read.
Afghan refugees also complain that some locals living in the surroundings of the UNHCR building in Ankara have accused them of being responsible for thefts that have happened around the neighborhood.
Refugees also faced police intervention on April 26, a few days after starting their protest.