Turkey does not have the capacity to deal with a possible new refugee wave from Afghanistan, the Turkish president told German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a telephone call on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
During the call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said Germany and other European Union countries should provide assistance to Afghanistan’s neighbors to help them as “they bear the burden of the Afghan migration,” according to a statement from his office.
Turkey, which already hosts the world’s largest refugee population, including 3.7 million Syrians, is concerned about a potential influx of refugees fleeing the Taliban. Anti-migrant sentiment has been running high in Turkey as it grapples with economic woes, including high unemployment, that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Erdoğan underlined that Turkey does not have the capacity to handle a new migration burden,” said a statement from the presidential communications office.
Erdoğan added that “no one wants to relive an experience similar to the Syrian refugee wave of 2015,” when hundreds of thousands of people reached Greek islands by boats from the nearby Turkish coast on their way to seek asylum in more prosperous EU countries.
In 2016 Turkey and the EU signed a deal for Ankara to stem the flow of migrants heading toward Europe in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and substantial EU financial support.
Erdoğan told the German president that the EU should “rapidly take steps” to ensure that the deal is implemented by restarting Turkey’s stalled membership talks, updating the customs union with Ankara and granting visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, according to the statement.
There was no statement on the call from the office of the German president, whose duties are largely ceremonial.