02/28/2023, 19.36
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Turkey expelled over 68,000 Afghan migrants in 2022

The recent shipwreck off Crotone put the spotlight on the eastern route into the European Union. Last year, Turkey expelled 120,000 people, including 12,000 Pakistanis. In Afghanistan, the situation has worsened since the Taliban came back in August 2021. Despite ongoing funding from the European Union, Turkey has failed to process asylum applications by Afghan refugees who arrive via Iran.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Last year, Turkey expelled some 120,000 asylum seekers, including 68,290 Afghans and 12,5001 Pakistanis, plus migrants from other countries deemed illegal, this according to its General Directorate of Migration Management.

As more tragedies strike the Mediterranean, public interest is rekindled in the eastern route that branches off on land (via Turkey, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe) and sea.

The latest episode took place a few days ago off the coast of Crotone, southern Italy, where a boat carrying migrants sank in rough seas; so far, the bodies of 60 people have been recovered, including some 20 Pakistani nationals.

Reacting to the incident, the Pakistani government ordered an official investigation into the smuggling networks operating in the country.

“A crackdown on the criminal network of human trafficking worldwide is the need of the hour,” said Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Sajid Hussain Turi.

“Since April 2022, over 600,000 people have been sent abroad for jobs,” he explained, urging his fellow citizens to be careful and “not to fall prey to human trafficking.”

Currently, Turkey hosts more than four million refugees, the highest number in the world, mostly Syrians (3.7 million) who fled the war that began in 2011, but also 322,000 registered asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia.

Under a 2016 agreement with the European Union, Turkey has pledged to take charge of refugees in the country with EU funds.

Between 2016 and 2019, the EU allocated more than € 8 billion (US$ 8.5 billion) in humanitarian aid through two different mechanisms to ensure that Turkey stopped migrants from entering its territory. Between 2020 and 2023, it paid out more than € 960 million (US$ 1 billion).

Yet, after all these years, the fate of refugees in Turkey continues to be heartbreaking. In early January, the Directorate General for Migration Management announced plans to expel another 5,000 Afghan migrants, like in 2022.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 98 per cent of refugees in Turkey live outside refugee camps in difficult and often precarious circumstances.

Many refugee families have exhausted their financial resources, and believe that they have no choice but to resort to survival mechanisms such as child labour, street begging, or marrying off underage daughters.

Afghans are also abducted for ransom. As an AsiaNews source noted, “many people” die along the Afghan-Iranian and the Iranian-Turkish borders in a "desperate attempt" to start a new life away from the Taliban.

Several humanitarian groups have spoken out on the fate of Afghan refugees in Turkey.  According to a Human Rights Watch report last year, Turkish authorities systematically expel or turn away Afghan refugees without processing their applications for international protection.

The situation is worse since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Not only did they impose bans and restrictions on women, but they are hard-pressed to cope with a catastrophic  humanitarian situation with more than 90 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.

In Afghanistan, attacks by the local branch of the Islamic State group,[*] abductions of former government officials, and revenge killings by the Taliban have also increased.

In October last year, the General Directorate of Migration Management said it had prevented 238,448 "irregular migrants" from entering the country in 2022.

[*] Islamic State-Khorasan Province, IS-KP.

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