Afghan Arrivals in Turkey Treble as Border Wall Looms
The number of Afghans arriving in Turkey has trebled amid fears the route may close. Some 27,000 Afghans arrived in the first three months of this year.
Fears are mounting that a wall may be built along Turkey’s eastern border, similar to that blocking sections of the border with Syria.
A Turkish government spokesman said the figure of 27,000 likely underestimates the number of arrivals via Iran, including many Afghans.
Turkey already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees and is in talks to return some of them to so-called safe areas inside war-torn Syria.
“Turkey as a country will take the same measures to the illegal refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan as it does to refugees from other countries,” government spokesman Bekir Bozdag said.
A 90-mile (144km) wall being built along the border with Iran is meant to stem migration, as well as alleged infiltration by Kurdish militants, officials said. The wall is due to be finished in a year.
Ibrahim Vurgun Kavlak, an activist who supports asylum seekers in Turkey, said the wall was “creating concern that it will be hard to pass once construction is complete.”
Rumors that Iran, which hosts millions of Afghan migrants and refugees, is preparing to repatriate Afghans are driving many to try to reach Turkey. A similar wave of repatriations from Pakistan is helping to create an entire underclass of Afghans back in their home country, while conflict there worsens.
Syrian Refugee Convoy Departs Lebanon to Return to Syria
A group of Syrian refugees have left Lebanon to return home. Nearly 500 people, including children and elderly people, left the Shebaa area in southeast Lebanon in 15 buses.
They have moved to the Beit Jinn district in Syria, southwest of the capital, Damascus.
“We had no news about our hometown. My family and I are happy to be going back,” 31-year-old Younes Othman, a Syrian farmer who spent four years in Lebanon, told Reuters.
The convoy was organized by Lebanese authorities, with no involvement from the U.N. refugee agency. Non-state actors such as the Hezbollah militia have been involved in previous mass returns, raising concerns about how voluntary they are.
Some Lebanese politicians have been agitating for large-scale returns of Syrian refugees, despite the continuing conflict in Syria.
Greece to Abide by Court Ruling to Open the Islands
Greece said it will abide by a court decision to allow new asylum seekers to leave the islands. The Council of State ruling is seen to threaten the E.U.-Turkey deal intended to reduce the flow of people across the Aegean.
The deal rests on new arrivals being restricted to five Greek islands while their asylum claims are being processed. However, Greece’s highest court has ruled against the confinement. The decision will affect new arrivals only and not the 10,000-plus refugees and migrants already on the islands.
“For sure, this ruling will create a new situation that concerns those who arrive from now on and we will see how it will be addressed,” Greek deputy migration minister Yiannis Balafas told local radio. “I don’t think the 2016 agreement will collapse because of this ruling.”
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