Van, Afghan mother freezes to death trying to cross the border
by Dario Salvi

The woman who was fleeing from the Taliban died after being caught in a storm, but her two children, who are now in the care of Iranian soldiers across the border, are safe. Turkish officials offload responsibility. AsiaNews sources: "Many people" have died in recent weeks while trying to enter the country. Caritas Turkey rushes to aid of 30 migrant families. 

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - An Afghan mother of two, who was fleeing the Taliban in power in Kabul since last August, has frozen to death while trying to cross the border between Iran and Turkey. SHer two children have been saved (in the photo) after they were spotted by villagers from Özalp, in the eastern province of Van, who rescued them and then entrusted them to the soldiers of the Islamic Republic across the border.

This latest tale of migrant tragedy (and despair) that took place on the first day of the new year was told by the local governor's office: the young mother "was surprised by a snow storm" and died of frostbite, while the children "continued the journey" until they reached the village. The note speaks of a "sad incident" that "did not happen within our [Turkish] borders," but "in the [Iranian] village of Belesur" in an attempt to distance all responsibility or involvement of the authorities in Ankara.

However, an  institutional AsiaNews source speaking on condition of anonymity stresses that "many people" have died in recent weeks, trying to cross the mountains along the border with the Islamic Republic to enter the country.

Recently, news emerged of shootings and targeted attacks by the Turkish army against migrants trying to cross the territory in a desperate attempt to reach the coasts of Europe and start a new life far from the Taliban. The exodus has triggered a new spiral of hatred and intolerance in the Turkish population, affected by the economic crisis and already tried in past years by the entry of millions of Syrians and Iraqis fleeing the war and jihadist violence. 

In its 2021 report on migrants and refugees, the United Nations explains that even before the rise of Koranic students in Afghanistan, the reality was critical and a quarter of the population had already abandoned their homes, bringing the share of internally displaced persons to 3.5 million.

In November, António Vitorino, director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), raised the alarm when he spoke of a nation on the verge of collapse.

The emergency is confirmed by Caritas Turkey, which told AsiaNews: "In December alone, 14 families made up of widows with children turned to us for help". The Christian charity has rented "houses for them" and is now trying "to organize a canteen for 30 families, for a total of 120 people. With two euros a day," Caritas Turkey continues, "we can guarantee two hot meals to people" and for this reason it is more important than ever "to support our work in any way".

Meanwhile, in fear of an uncontrolled flow, Turkey has strengthened its defenses along the border with Iran, considered the main hub of migrant traffic. According to Ankara's statistics,  there are at least 182 thousand Afghan migrants registered in Turkey, plus another 120 thousand who are not included in the official registers and live in semi-clandestine conditions. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan intervened on the issue, stressing that the country has no intention of becoming a "storage center" for migrants heading to Europe.

In 2021 the security forces in the eastern province of Van, on the border with Iran, have blocked the entry of more than 120 thousand migrants fleeing war and persecution, while the construction of the wall continues. So far 40 km out of a total of 64 planned have been completed, along which 103 towers will be built, 45 of which for communication and 58 others for surveillance. Patrols have also arrested 15,000 people (without specifying their identity or status) and 1,904 suspected human traffickers, seizing 880 vehicles and five boats.