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Turkey: US triggering major refugee crisis by encouraging Afghans to travel to 3rd states

A file photo of a camp for Afghanistan’s internally displaced families in the Dand district of Kandahar Province, in Afghanistan (by AFP)

Turkey has slammed as “irresponsible” a US-declared program to offer potential resettlement to Afghans who served American occupation forces or worked for US-based organizations through third countries, including Turkey, insisting that the move would generate a “great migration crisis” in the region.

“The US Department of State statement said on Aug. 2 that the immigration applications of Afghans to the US will be received from third countries through their affiliated organizations, also referring to our country,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in a Tuesday statement.

“It is unacceptable to seek a solution in our country without our consent, instead of finding a solution among the countries in the region,” Bilgic said.

He argued that the US move would cause a major refugee crisis in the region and add to the suffering of Afghans on migration routes, which Washington specified as Pakistan and Turkey, through Iran.

The US State Department announced the possible resettlement plan on Monday, but insisted that qualified Afghans would have to make their own way to a third country, where they will have to wait at their own expense “12 to 14 months” for their application to be processed.

A senior State Department official was cited in local news reports as saying that Washington had been in discussion with neighboring countries on potential outflows, pointing out that it was important that Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan remain open, while others might travel to Turkey via Iran.

The remarks mark a deliberate US attempt to create a potential refugee crisis in the region without any sort of coordination with affected countries, which already host a substantial refugee population due to the US-led military invasion of Afghanistan since 2001.

“As Turkey, we do not accept the irresponsible decision taken by the United States without consulting our country. If the United States wants to take these people to its country, it is possible to transfer them directly to their country by planes,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

“No one should expect the Turkish nation to bear the burden of the migration crises experienced as a result of the decisions of third countries in our region,” it said.

There was no immediate reaction to the US announcement by Pakistan and Iran.

Bilgic said that Turkey — which he said had hosted the largest number of refugees in the world for the past seven years — “does not have the capacity to undertake a new migration crisis on behalf of a third country.”

Turkey has offered to protect and operate Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport following the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan.

Relations between Ankara and Washington have already been strained over a host of issues, ranging from Ankara’s move to purchase Russian air defense equipment to legal issues and policy differences in Syria, Libya, and the eastern Mediterranean.

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