The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that the government has received no request from the United Kingdom regarding the establishment of asylum processing centers for Afghan refugees in the country.
“Should there be such a request, we would not accept it anyway,” the ministry said in a press statement.
As the Taliban took over Afghanistan and Kabul fell to the radical Islamist organization after US and NATO troops withdrew, countries started to evacuate their citizens from the war-torn country. Since the Taliban takeover, the number of Afghans fleeing the Taliban has skyrocketed.
In response to the increasing number of Afghan refugees, Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a new program to receive 20,000 Afghan refugees.
As part of the UK’s efforts to deal with Afghan refugees, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace proposed a plan to set up hubs for Afghans in various countries in the region. “We will establish a series of processing hubs across the region outside Afghanistan for those Afghans we have an obligation to bring to this country,” he wrote in an article published in the Daily Mail on Sunday.
Although Wallace did not specifically name any country, news stories appearing in the British media referred to Pakistan and Turkey as the countries where these centers would be established.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, however, denied the plan, saying in its statement: “The news in the UK press concerning that there are plans to establish an asylum processing center for Afghan asylum-seekers in Turkey do not reflect the truth.”
The ministry’s statement came after main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Good (İYİ) Party leader Meral Akşener lambasted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the UK government over Wallace’s “processing centers” plan.
Kılıçdaroğlu maintained in a Twitter post that the UK would select certain Afghans to accept while leaving the rest to Turkey.
“My question to Erdoğan: Can countries with which you refused to make a deal issue such statements without even consulting Turkey? Or are they this bold because you already made a deal with them? Which one is it? Be honest, Erdoğan!” wrote the CHP leader.
Kılıçdaroğlu said it is “inhumane for the UK to leave the Afghans who served them for dead,” adding: “Yet, rest assured our people will bear the brunt of your irresponsibility in their neighborhoods. You can’t bring anybody to Turkey like this,” suggesting that it was a sinister UK plan to direct Afghan refugees to Turkey.
“Are you becoming a British proxy in order to save your office, Mr. Erdoğan?” İYİ leader Akşener asked, tagging Erdoğan in her tweet.
In another Twitter post, Akşener addressed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding the alleged processing hubs. “Such agreements on Afghan refugees are against the will of the Turkish people and thus illegitimate in our view. When Mr. Erdoğan is gone after the next election, we will not allow such camps on our soil. Be forewarned,” she wrote.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had urged Western countries to work closely with Turkey regarding the increased Afghan influx to the country.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan on Sunday told European Council President Charles Michel that Turkey can’t bail out the EU by taking in Afghans who worked for Western countries, Agence France-Presse reported.
“Turkey also refused to take the EU mission’s local Afghan staff members in the country because Ankara believes the EU doesn’t do enough to take care of the refugees while Turkey is hosting 5 million of them,” Ragıp Soylu, Turkey bureau chief for Middle East Eye, tweeted on Monday.
Erdoğan on Friday said Turkey currently hosts about 300,000 refugees from Afghanistan and not 1.5 million as was previously claimed by opposition parties.
Turkey, which hosts some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, is currently faced with an increasing number of Afghan nationals attempting to enter the country through Iran after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul last week. Between 500 and 1,000 Afghans are estimated to have arrived in Turkey each day since early July, according to Turkish media reports.
According to a poll recently conducted by Konsensus Araştırma, a large majority of Turks are against accepting more refugees amid the Afghanistan crisis, with only 9.1 percent of respondents supporting the idea that Turkey accept new refugees.