PACE rapporteur calls on Turkish political parties to avoid negative stances against refugees, migrants amid election campaign

Afghan migrants rest while waiting for transport by smugglers after crossing the Iran-Turkish border on August 15, 2021 in Tatvan, on the western shores of Lake Van, eastern Turkey. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

Birgir Thórarinsson, rapporteur for the crisis facing Afghan refugees from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee for Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, has called on Turkey’s political parties, especially during their campaigning for the upcoming elections, to avoid encouraging short-sighted and negative stances against refugees and migrants.

Following a three-day visit to Turkey April 12-14, Thórarinsson said he had observed an intensification of negative narratives about migrants and refugees across Turkish society and a worrying decline in public support for refugees.

“Greater solidarity is urgently needed to support frontline countries, especially through a fair share of reception and resettlement responsibilities,” he said, urging coordinated action so that Ankara and Afghanistan’s neighboring states are not left alone in supporting Afghan refugees.

Thórarinsson, from Iceland, was appointed rapporteur for “The humanitarian crisis emerging for Afghanistan and Afghan refugees” by the committee at its meeting in Paris in March 2022.

“Türkiye does not consider all Afghans as international protection seekers. Non-registered Afghans are vulnerable to abuse, may be deported if found in an irregular situation, and cannot access resettlement or family reunification,” the PACE rapporteur said.

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on May 14.

Xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes against refugees and migrants are increasing in Turkey, a Council of Europe (CoE) member state, as the country prepares for upcoming elections, and politicians from far-right parties have been fueling anti-migrant sentiment in regions recently hit by two major earthquakes.

The number of refugees in Turkey is estimated at 3.9 million, including 3.6 million Syrians with temporary protection status and 320,000 others, mostly Afghans.

According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Turkey is deporting tens of thousands of Afghans directly to Afghanistan or pushing them back at its land border with Iran without checking to see if they are eligible for international protection.

As of October 20, 2022 the Migration Management Bureau at Turkey’s Ministry of Interior reported 238,448 irregular migrants prevented from entering Turkey, most of them Afghans. In the first eight months of 2022, Turkey deported 44,768 Afghans by air to Kabul, a 150 percent increase from the first eight months of 2021.

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