Turkey cannot take new refugee burden, foreign minister says

Events in Afghanistan have fuelled worries in Europe of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Antalya on Sunday. Photo: Turkish Foreign Ministry via Reuters
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Turkey cannot take the burden of a new migrant wave from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday.

He spoke after talks with his German counterpart about how to handle a possible influx of Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

The events in Afghanistan have fuelled worries in the European Union of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis, in which nearly a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond crossed to Greece from Turkey before travelling north to wealthier states.

To stem the flow of refugees, the bloc reached an agreement with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey would host Syrians in return for billions of euros to spend on refugee projects.

On Sunday, Mr Cavusoglu said lessons should be learnt from the 2015 crisis and that EU states should step up to help.

“As Turkey, we have sufficiently carried out our moral and humanitarian responsibilities regarding migration,” Mr Cavusoglu said during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“It is out of the question for us to take an additional refugee burden.”

Turkey currently hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the world’s largest refugee population, in addition to about 300,000 Afghans.

It has reinforced its eastern border to prevent crossings in anticipation of arrivals from Afghanistan.

Mr Maas said Germany was grateful to Turkey for its offer of help to run Kabul airport after Nato’s withdrawal, for which Germany was ready to offer financial and technical support.

“It is in our own interests to ensure that the collapse in Afghanistan does not destabilise the entire region,” he said in a statement.

Mr Maas is on a trip to Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Qatar to show Germany’s support for the countries most likely to suffer the fallout of the Taliban takeover.

Greece, an EU member, has completed a 40-kilometre fence and surveillance system along its border with Turkey to deter migrants from using it as a gateway to wealthier European states.

Updated: August 29, 2021, 8:15 PM