Thirty-three Afghan and Pakistani nationals were being held in different parts of Turkey after having illegally crossed into the country, security sources stated on Monday.
Gendarmerie teams in the Siverek district of the southeastern Şanlıurfa province learned that some foreign nationals were hiding in cornfields next to the Siverek-Diyarbakır highway.
The teams raided the fields and rounded up 28 Afghan and Pakistani nationals. They were fined TL 133,000 Turkish (over $15,000) in total, and referred to a local repatriation center.
Separately, another five people were held in the northwestern Kırklareli province.
Acting on a tip-off, gendarmerie teams intercepted the Afghan nationals in the Vize district and Çağlayık village. The migrants claimed they were beaten in Bulgaria and sent to Turkey. Later, they were referred to a local repatriation center.
Concerns have risen over a possible spike in migrants from Afghanistan due to the United States' pullout from that country after two decades.
Video footage has shown large groups of migrants in the border area with Iran, although the Turkish government says there has been no surge yet in numbers.
Turkey, which hosts around 4 million refugees, is currently building new security measures on its eastern border, including a wall along parts of the 300-kilometer (186-mile) border. Afghans are believed to be the second-largest refugee community after Syrians.
The Taliban have pressed a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan in recent months, capitalizing on the last stages of the U.S. troop withdrawal, due to be completed by the end of August, and raising fears of a potential humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations recently estimated half of Afghanistan's 39 million people are in need of aid, and called on the international community to maintain financial support for the country.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said recently that surveillance at the Iranian border had been increased with additional troops, among other measures.
Many of the migrants arriving via Iran are heading for Istanbul to find work or passage to another coastal city from which to embark for Europe.
Turkey is embracing those fleeing death, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Spokesperson Ömer Çelik stated during the press conference of the AK Party Central Executive Board (MYK) late Monday. However, he said, Turkey will not allow this to be exploited.
“Turkey is no one’s refugee camp. No one should think of this geography as a concentration camp. We are a people that are embracing those fleeing death as we have been throughout history,” he stated.
Çelik’s comments came after the U.S. recently announced a plan to use third countries such as Turkey to resettle thousands of Afghans who risk being targeted by Taliban insurgents over their U.S. links. Washington’s plan was highly criticized by Turkish authorities.
Less than a month before the United States is set to end its longest-ever war, the State Department announced a new refugee admissions program for Afghan nationals.
The program covers interpreters and translators who worked with U.S. forces, Afghans involved with U.S.-funded projects and those employed by U.S.-based NGOs or media organizations.
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 4 million migrants – most from war-torn Syria – said it was never consulted.
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