Turkey is not Europe’s refugee warehouse: Erdoğan
Turkey is not Europe’s refugee warehouse, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, slamming European countries for trying to ignore the growing refugee problem by closing its doors amid fears of a new migrant influx from Afghanistan.
“Turkey has no duty, responsibility or obligation to be Europe’s refugee warehouse,” Erdoğan said after a cabinet meeting late Aug. 19.
Erdoğan’s statements came as many European nations announced that they will not accept refugees from Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
European Union chief foreign and security policy chief Josep Borrell and German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that the EU should cooperate with Turkey in stemming a potential migrant wave from Afghanistan to the West.
“We should recall this reality to our European friends,” Erdoğan said, emphasizing that Europe can’t exclude itself from this problem by simply shutting its borders in a strict way.
“After we, as a country, forcibly close our borders and send the current irregular migrants their home, where these people will go through other channels is their business,” he stated.
Turkey is a country that prioritizes the security and prosperity of its 84 million citizens and not a country where foreigners can walk in freely, Erdoğan said.
“Currently, our country is home to approximately five million people, of which 3.6 million are Syrians, 1.1 million have a residence permit and 314,000 have international protection status. There are also those who enter our country illegally, called irregular migrants,” he said.
Turkey hosts 300,000 Afghans
The government has accelerated the works to tighten measures for the border security, particularly on the Iranian border from where the irregular migrants from Afghanistan are trying to enter Turkey, Erdoğan informed.
Turkey is building modular wall, digging trenches and setting up new electronic means to curb the illegal entries, the president stated, stressing, “By increasing the number and capacity of our repatriation centers, we ensure the controlled return of irregular migrants to their countries. Thanks to our measures, we have reduced the number of irregular migrants from 455,000 in 2019 to 122,000 in 2020.
Erdoğan stated that half of the irregular migrants captured in the past three years were Afghan nationals, also informing that Turkey is currently hosting around 300,000 Afghans, of which 180,000 of them are registered. Around 235,000 Afghan nationals have been repatriated by Turkey in the recent years, the president stated.
On the developments in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Afghan government, Erdoğan said Turkey’s objective is to contribute to the peace, security and well-being of the country as a whole. “Since our aim is primarily the stability and security of this country, if necessary, we will also meet with the government to be formed by the Taliban and discuss our common agendas,” he said.
Turkey closely following developments
Speaking to reporters following the Friday prayer on Aug. 20, Erdoğan said Turkey is closely following the developments in Afghanistan and is in contact with countries whose Afghanistan policies are certain. “We have already made clear that we can talk to Taliban if need be,” Erdoğan said.
“There is a phenomenon, reality. And we will open our doors when knocked and hold our meetings about this issue,” he said, recalling that some Turkish institutions had already engaged in dialogue with Taliban.
Turkey is keeping its borders open to those seeking a shelter in a controlled manner, Erdoğan said, dismissing the opposition’s claims that the number of Afghan migrants in Turkey has exceeded one and a half million.