Turkey is experiencing a new influx of refugees as almost 30,000 Afghans have arrived in the country in the last three months. Amnesty International denounced Ankara’s decision to send more than 7,000 of them back to Afghanistan as a “ruthless deportation drive”. “Thousands more are in detention, being treated more like criminals than people fleeing conflict and persecution,” Anna Shea, Amnesty researcher on refugee and migrants rights, said.
Ankara commented that the returns are voluntary and that the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has regular access to places of detention. However, based on phone interviews with detainees in container camps in southern Turkey where about 2,000 Afghans are believed to be held, Amnesty International was informed about the detainees being forced to sign documents in Turkish, which they are not able to understand. Amnesty worries that these could be “voluntary repatriation forms”.
According to the human rights lobby, there are currently 145,000 Afghans in Turkey. Many migrants use Turkey as a transit country on their way to Europe. Turkey is already hosting about 3.5 million Syrian refugees as well as about 300,000 Iraqi refugees. Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu commented that 29,899 Afghans had crossed into Turkey since January compared to 45,259 people in the whole of 2017 and added that 1,328 people smugglers had been caught by now. Mr. Soylu added that 75,284 migrants have so far arrived in his country in 2018 compared with 172,745 in 2017.
In March 2016, Ankara made a deal with the European Union to tame the flow of refugees to Europe after the worst refugee crisis since the WWII. More than one million migrants and refugees landed on Europe’s shores in 2015, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.