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Turkey pushes back at US plan to resettle Afghans

AFP , Wednesday 4 Aug 2021
TURKEY/Afghanistan
file photo:US President Joe Biden (R) speaks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to a plenary session of a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels.AFP
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Ankara has criticised a US plan to use third countries such as Turkey to resettle thousands of Afghans who risk being targeted by Taliban insurgents over their US links.

Less than a month before the United States is set to end its longest-ever war, the State Department on Monday announced a new refugee admissions programme for Afghan nationals.

The programme covers interpreters and translators who worked with US forces, Afghans involved with US-funded projects and those employed by US-based NGOs or media organisations.

It involves resettling the Afghans in third countries in the region for around a year while their paperwork is processed.

But Turkey, which is already home to more than four million migrants ,most from war-torn Syria said it was never consulted.

"It's unacceptable to seek a solution to the problem in our country without our country's consent," the foreign ministry said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

The State Department referred to Turkey as one possible relocation point, also mentioning Pakistan.

But the Turkish ministry said the US plan would lead to a "big migration crisis in our region", adding it lacked the capacity to deal with "a new migration crisis on behalf of a third country".

With the ongoing withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, Turkey fears a new influx of refugees.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkish officials were holding high-level talks over the issue with Afghan counterparts.

The issue is also likely to feature in talks between Ankara and Brussels about updating a 2016 deal under which Turkey received aid for hosting migrants seeking refuge in the Europe Union.

Asked about the number of Afghan arrivals in Turkey, a senior State Department official said on Monday: "I don't have numbers on Turkey.

"I would say we haven't seen major large outflows of people yet, but we have seen some numbers of people crossing, but not large numbers yet."

The Turkish foreign ministry said if the US wanted to take in the Afghans, it could do so through "direct flights".

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