KABUL: Afghanistan has called on Turkey to halt its expulsion of Afghan refugees with an appeal to Ankara to provide asylum or allow them to travel to Europe.
Last month, Turkey announced that it had sent more than 7,000 Afghans back to their homeland and said thousands more would follow. Last week, about 775 Afghans were flown back from Turkey on chartered flights.
Almost 145,000 Afghans live in Turkey, according to Afghan officials at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation. An unknown number have applied for asylum or live as refugees after fleeing Afghanistan in recent years due to the escalation of war, growing poverty and economic uncertainty.
The expulsion of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees from neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan has prompted authorities in Kabul to form a joint committee with Ankara to manage the problem, officials told Arab News.
“We are waiting for the arrival of a Turkish delegation to discuss ways of dealing with this problem,” Hafiz Ahmad Miakhail, media adviser for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, told Arab News.
“Most of the returnees are young. They have apparently signed papers for a voluntary return, but they were kept in camps where the situation pushed them to choose to come home,” said Miakhail.
Returnees receive no assistance, with some ending up living in Kabul or rejoining family members and relatives in various provinces, he said.
“We expect Turkey to honor its commitment with regards to migrants or refugees and allow Afghans to either seek asylum there or let them go to Europe,” he said.
“Expulsion is not a solution. The situation in the country is not safe. Terror activities are increasing with each passing day,” he said.
The welfare group Refugees International also expressed concern over the forced return of Afghan immigrants from Turkey.
“Returning a person to a country where he or she faces the risk of torture or ill-treatment is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights,” the group said.
The refugees are believed to be Afghan nationals who arrived in Turkey via its land border with Iran before being stopped by Turkish police and detained in deportation centers.
Refugees International said the Afghans were coerced into signing documents in Turkish — which they could not understand — saying they agreed to return to Afghanistan voluntarily.
Some families were released and allowed to travel to Ankara to register with the United Nations refugee agency, but most were not given a chance to apply for asylum.
Arrivals in Turkey have jumped in recent months, with almost 18,000 Afghans arriving between January and March, the group said.