Turkey Strengthens Border to Block Every Wave of Afghan Migrants | World news

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VAN, Turkey (Reuters) – Afghans who manage to make the week-long journey across Iran on foot to the Turkish border are faced with a ten-foot wall, trenches or barbed wire as Turkish authorities step up efforts to target the Refugee influx to Turkey blocking land.

The strengthened border measures in Turkey, which is already hosting nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and is a stopover for many migrants trying to reach Europe, began with the advance of the Taliban in Afghanistan and took over Kabul last week.

The authorities plan to extend a border wall, which began in 2017, by a further 64 km by the end of the year. Trenches, wire and round-the-clock security patrols will cover the remainder of the 560 km border.

“We want to show the whole world that our borders are impassable,” Mehmet Emin Bilmez, governor of the eastern border province of Van, told Reuters over the weekend. “Our greatest hope is that there will be no wave of migrants from Afghanistan.”

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Turkey isn’t the only country putting up barriers: its neighbor Greece has just completed a 40 km fence and surveillance system to keep out migrants who still manage to enter Turkey and get into the European Union.

According to authorities, there are 182,000 registered Afghan migrants in Turkey and up to 120,000 unregistered. President Tayyip Erdogan called on European countries to take responsibility for any new influx and warned that Turkey had no intention of becoming “Europe’s migrant camp”.

The number of irregular Afghan migrants detained in Turkey so far this year is less than a fifth of the number detained in 2019, and officials say they haven’t seen any signs of it since the Taliban’s victory last week have seen a bigger increase, although the long distances mean refugees can take weeks to arrive.

The Turkish side of the mountainous border with Iran is lined with bases and watchtowers. Police cars monitor movements around the clock on the Iranian side, from where migrants, smugglers and Kurdish militants often attempt to invade Turkey.

Migrants sighted at the border will be returned to the Iranian side, although most are returning and trying again, according to security forces.

“No matter how many high-level actions you take, from time to time there may be those who dodge them,” said Bilmez.

Roads leading away from the border are lined with checkpoints. Migrants who make it are hidden in homes by smugglers – often filthy, dilapidated buildings underground or in deeply dried river beds – waiting to be taken to western Turkey.

On Saturday, police arrested 25 migrants, mostly Afghans, behind a dilapidated building in Van’s Hacibekir district.

“We thought we would have facilities here that we deserve to support our parents. There are Taliban killing us there,” said 20-year-old Zaynullah, one of the detainees. He said he arrived in Turkey two days earlier after walking 80 days.

Detainees are taken to a processing center for health and safety checks. There, 26-year-old Seyyed Fahim Mousavi said he fled his native Kabul a month ago, before the Taliban came, because he feared they would kill him for working as a driver for the Americans and Turks.

His 22-year-old wife, Morsal, said they made the trip through Iran mainly on foot to escape the Taliban.

“They harm women. After raping them, they kill them. They behead the men,” she said, detaining her two children, aged two and five. “We don’t want to go back. Let’s just stay here.”

Once processed, migrants are taken to a repatriation center where they can spend up to 12 months before being sent back to their home country. These returns for Afghans have now been stopped, leaving around 7,500 Afghans in suspension in various return centers.

Ramazan Secilmis, deputy head of the migration directorate, said his organization was working to identify those in need of protection from the Taliban in order to relocate them to third countries.

“Those in need of protection must be separated from those who come to our country for economic reasons. We cannot automatically deport someone just because they have Afghan nationality,” he said.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Hugh Lawson)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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