Turkey should seek global cooperation for Afghan refugees

Turkey should seek global cooperation for Afghan refugees

Turkey is the country that hosts most refugees in the world. According to the official figures, some 3.7 million Syrians are being sheltered in Turkey due to the continued civil war in the neighboring southern country. Plus, Afghans and Iraqis, including immigrants from various African countries, make the refugee toll nearly 5 million. As a country with limited economic resources, Turkey is trying to tackle this growing issue without major global support.

This dramatic picture naturally triggers social and economic problems, accompanied by a tense political discussion between the government and the oppositional bloc. Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s vow that all the Syrians will return to their countries if they come to power reflects the opposition’s strategy before the 2023 elections. He got the support of other oppositional leaders, and that shows the refugee issue will likely constitute one of the main items of the political agenda of Turkey.

In addition, Turkey’s bid to continue its military presence in Afghanistan for keeping the Kabul international airport open is also on the opposition’s agenda from two different perspectives. They question why Turkey chose to remain in Afghanistan while all the NATO allies are pulling back their troops. They argue that Turkey’s move aims to soften the troubled relationship with the United States at the expense of throwing the troops in danger against the Taliban.
Secondly, they warn the government about a new refugee influx from Afghanistan as many Afghans are seeking ways to flee their country before the Taliban takes over control. The international agencies report Taliban assaults on several major cities, including Kandahar, over the weekend, diminishing hopes for a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. With the deterioration of the situation in this country, it is feared that a new refugee influx will start, and one of the destinations will be Turkey.

This concern was voiced by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s main ally from the People’s Alliance. Bahçeli informed that the estimated number of Afghans in Turkey was nearly 500,000 and warned that more Afghan refugees could come during the risky and dangerous period ahead, obviously referring to the Taliban’s overrunning their country. “We must be on alert,” he told Turkish media over the weekend.

According to official figures, Turkey has captured around 70,000 irregular migrants since the beginning of this year and around 30,000 of them are Afghan nationals. Many in Ankara believe that Iranian authorities are preferring to ignore the travel of Afghans toward Turkey and that’s why the completion of the wall on the Iranian border is deemed essential to reduce the number of irregular migrants.

At this point, it seems very important for Turkey to create international awareness of the looming humanitarian problems of Afghanistan and establish a dialogue with all regional countries and international organizations on how to avoid a new refugee influx. As Bahçeli warns, Turkey must be on alert against a new refugee influx.

Serkan Demirtaş,