The new border wall separating Turkey from Iran to be like a white snake winding through the barren hills. So far it only covers a third of the 540-kilometer border, leaving plenty of gaps for migrants to slip across in the dead of night.
Traffic on this key migration route from central Asia to Europe has remained relatively stable compared to previous years. But European countries, as well as Turkey, fear the sudden return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan could change that.
Haunted by a 2015 migration crisis fueled by the Syrian war, European leaders desperately want to avoid another large-scale influx of migrants and refugees from Afghanistan.
According a confidential German diplomatic memo obtained by The Associated Press European Union officials told a meeting of interior ministers this week that the most important lesson from 2015 was not to leave Afghans to their own gadgets , and that without urgent humanitarian help they will start moving.
The U.S. and its NATO allies are scrambling to evacuate thousands of Afghans who fear they’ll be punished by the Taliban for having worked with Western forces. But other Afghans are unlikely to get the same welcome.
French President Emmanuel Macron stressed on Monday that, “Europe alone cannot shoulder the consequences” of the situation in Afghanistan and “must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows.”
Britain, which left the EU in 2020, said it would welcome 5,000 Afghan refugees this year and resettle a total of 20,000 in coming years.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johanson said, Europe “should not wait until people stand at our external border” .
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said Wednesday that Greece won’t accept being the “gateway for irregular flows into the EU,” and that it considers Turkey to be a safe place for Afghans.
A statement from Erdogan’s office said , The Turkish president talked about migration from Afghanistan in a rare phone call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday, and also is discussing the issue with Iran.
The public’s “unease” about migration, Erdogan noted how his government has reinforced the eastern border with Iran with military, gendarmerie, police and the new wall, which has been under construction since 2017.
AP journalists near the Turkish border with Iran encountered dozens of Afghans this week, mostly young men, but also some women and children. Smuggled across the border at night in small groups, they said they left their country to escape the Taliban, violence and poverty.
There are no indications yet of any mass movement across the border. Turkish authorities say they have intercepted 35,000 Afghans entering the country illegally so far this year, compared with over 50,000 in all of 2020 and more than 200,000 in 2019.
about 630,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in EU countries in the past 10 years, with the highest numbers in Germany, Hungary, Greece and Sweden, according to the EU statistics agency. Last year, 44,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the 27-country bloc.
He said much depends on the Taliban allowing development and humanitarian work in the country and on donor nations continuing to fund those efforts.