Turkey's refugee burden

Portrait of refugees living homeless in Turkey (Shutterstock)

The photos that came out of Afghanistan showing thousands of people trying to flee Kabul before the US's self-imposed deadline of 31 August are truly horrific. But that is just the start. The West is looking at its refugee burden, yet it is small compared to that of some developing countries.

According to data prepared by the Norwegian Refugee Council using 2020 figures 10 countries receive the most refugees in relation to their population. In Lebanon, which is in dire straits economically, refugees comprise 19.5 per cent of the total population. With a population of 6.8 million, it is currently hosting an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria.

Some 10.5 per cent of Jordan's population are refugees, that's 1.5 million people, most of whom are from Syria and Palestine. Nauru receives boat refugees trying to get to Australia, and these comprise 5.9 per cent of its population. This is followed by Turkey, which accepts 4.5 million refugees- the highest actual number of any country- or 5 per cent its population. It is hosting more than 300,000 Afghans.

The other top receiving countries are Liberia (4.1 per cent), Uganda (3.7 per cent), Malta (3.7 per cent), Sudan (2.6 per cent), Sweden (2.6 per cent) and South Sudan (2.5 per cent).

According to World Vision, about 26.4 million people worldwide have fled to other countries as refugees. Another 4.1 million people are asylum-seekers who have applied for refugee status, but not received it yet. An estimated 42 per cent of refugees are children, among whom are about 1 million born as refugees from 2018 and 2020.

On 27 August, the UN launched its Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan which "envisages a worst-case scenario of 500,000 Afghan refugees arriving in neighbouring countries by the end of the year". UNHCR is seeking a total of US$299 million to allow it and other UN agencies and partners to preposition aid and to prepare for large outflows of refugees. Within Afghanistan it is estimated that a third of the population already face food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme.

Now Turkey says it won't accept the "refugee burden" from Afghanistan. This article explains why.

Turkey won't accept 'refugee burden' from Afghanistan

Al-Monitor Staff

August 30, 2021

Turkey cannot accept the influx of migrants fleeing Afghanistan, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Sunday, as foreign governments scrambled to evacuate their citizens and at-risk Afghans from the Taliban-run country.

"As Turkey, we have sufficiently carried out our moral and humanitarian responsibilities regarding migration," Cavusoglu said in a joint news conference with his German counterpart, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

"It is out of the question for us to take an additional refugee burden," Cavusoglu said in Turkey's southern Antalya province.

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide, including more than 3.7 million registered Syrians who were granted protection from their decade-long civil war. At more than 300,000, Afghans already make up Turkey's second-largest refugee population.

Since 2016 the European Union has provided billions of euros in exchange for Ankara preventing Europe-bound refugees from leaving Turkey's borders.

But in recent years, public attitudes toward refugees have soured in Turkey. Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured the public, "Turkey does not have any obligation whatsoever to be a safe haven for Afghan refugees."

Amid the surge in Afghan refugees, Turkish border police have stepped up surveillance and deportations along the country's southern border. Neighboring Greece constructed a 40-kilometer (25-mile) fence to deter Afghans who have escaped their country.

Cavusoglu's comments come as Turkey finished evacuating its more than 500 troops stationed in Afghanistan. Despite demanding Turkish troops withdraw by the Tuesday deadline, the Taliban have reportedly requested Turkey's help operating Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital city.

Turkey, which is NATO's only Muslim-majority member, is still weighing the request. Erdogan said Sunday that his country will maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan but cast doubt over the Taliban's airport proposal.

"How would we explain it to the world if you took over security and there is another bloodbath there? This is not an easy job," Erdogan said.

The Islamic State's affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for a pair of deadly bombings outside the airport on Thursday. The death toll has risen to at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members.

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Friday, 24 September 2021