Turkey reinforces borders to prevent any wave of Afghan migrants


* Turkey currently hosts nearly 4 million Syrian refugees

* The Taliban’s takeover of power in Afghanistan has raised fears of a new wave of immigrants

* Erdogan said that Turkey would not be the “storage unit for migrants in Europe”.

* The return of Afghans to their homeland has stopped due to the current situation in the country

Written by Ali Kokkokman

VAN, Turkey (August 22) (Reuters) – Afghans who made the weeks-long journey through Iran on foot to the Turkish border face a three-meter-high wall, trenches or barbed wire as Turkish authorities step up efforts to block any refugees. to the country.

Reinforced border measures in Turkey, which already hosts nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and is a springboard for many migrants trying to reach Europe, began when the Taliban began advancing into Afghanistan and captured Kabul last week.

Authorities plan to add another 64 kilometers by the end of the year to a border wall that began in 2017. Ditches, wire patrols and round-the-clock security patrols will cover the rest of the 560 kilometer border.

“We want to show the whole world that our borders cannot be crossed,” Mehmet Amin Bilmes, governor of the eastern border province of Van, told Reuters at the weekend. “Our greatest hope is that there will be no wave of immigrants from Afghanistan.”

Turkey isn’t the only country putting up barriers: its neighbor Greece has just completed a 40-kilometre fence and monitoring system to stop migrants still able to enter Turkey and try to reach the European Union.

Authorities say there are 182,000 registered Afghan immigrants in Turkey and as many as 120,000 unregistered immigrants. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged European countries to take responsibility for any new influx, warning that Turkey had no intention of becoming a “migrant storage unit in Europe”.

The number of Afghan irregular migrants detained in Turkey so far this year is less than a fifth of the number held in 2019, and officials say they have yet to see signs of a significant increase since the Taliban victory last week, even though the long distances mean refugees. It can take weeks to arrive.

Bases and watchtowers line the Turkish side of the mountainous border with Iran. Round-the-clock patrol cars monitor movement on the Iranian side, where Kurdish migrants, smugglers and militants frequently attempt to cross into Turkey.

Migrants who have been spotted crossing the border are being turned back to the Iranian side, though most come back and try again, according to security forces.

“No matter how many high-profile actions you take, there may be people who evade them from time to time,” Bilmes said.

“Let’s stay”

The roads leading from the border are lined with checkpoints. Migrant smugglers who have made it through are hiding in houses – often dirty and dilapidated buildings underground or in deep riverbeds – waiting to be transferred to western Turkey.

On Saturday, police arrested 25 migrants, mostly Afghans, behind a dilapidated building in the Hajipker district of Van.

“We thought we would have facilities here, we would earn to support our parents. There, there are Taliban to kill us,” said 20-year-old Zainullah, one of the detainees. He said he arrived in Turkey two days ago after traveling on foot for 80 days.

Those who are caught are taken for health and security checks at the treatment center. There, Seyed Fahim Mousavi, 26, said he fled his home in Kabul a month ago, before the Taliban came, for fear of being killed because he worked as a driver for Americans and Turks.

His wife, Mursal, 22, said they made the journey through Iran mostly on foot to escape the Taliban.

Carrying her two- and five-year-old children, she said, “They abuse women. After raping them, they kill them. They cut off the heads of men.” “We don’t want to go back. Let’s just stay here.”

After processing, migrants are taken to a repatriation center, where they can spend up to 12 months before being repatriated. These repatriations for Afghans have now ceased, leaving some 7,500 Afghans in limbo in various repatriation centres.

Ramadan Seselmis, deputy head of the Directorate of Immigration, said his organization is working to identify those who need protection from the Taliban for relocation to third countries.

“Those who need protection should be separated from those who come to our country for economic reasons. We cannot automatically deport anyone just because they have Afghan citizenship,” he said. (Reporting by Ali Kucukjukman; Editing by Dominic Evans and Hugh Lawson)

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