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Ending Türkiye visit, Rapporteur urges all member States to respond to the ‘forgotten Afghan refugee crisis'

PACE’s Rapporteur on the crisis facing Afghan refugees Birgir Thórarinsson (Iceland, EPP/CD), ending a three-day visit to Türkiye (12-14 April 2023), has praised the country’s “commendable efforts” to provide access to services to registered refugees, but noted that several challenges remain. He warned that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan should be of concern to all Council of Europe member States, and urged them to show solidarity in responding to what he described as “the forgotten Afghan refugee crisis”.

Türkiye has seen a considerable increase in the number of people granted a form of protection in the last ten years, the rapporteur pointed out, including around 142,000 Afghans. Their presence in the country is estimated at a few hundred thousand, many being undocumented. “The authorities have deployed commendable efforts to provide access to services to registered refugees, which has significantly impacted the country at all levels. Still, several challenges remain. 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 humanitarian situation in Afghanistan should be of extreme concern to the Council of Europe as a whole, Mr Thórarinsson pointed out, again urging co-ordinated action so that Türkiye and Afghanistan’s neighbouring states are not left alone in supporting Afghan refugees. “Greater solidarity is urgently needed to support frontline countries, especially through a fair share of reception and resettlement responsibilities.”

The Rapporteur also 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. He urged political parties, especially during campaigning for the upcoming elections, to avoid encouraging short-sighted and negative stances against refugees and migrants.

Mr Thórarinsson, who was visiting Türkiye following the tragic earthquakes in February, expressed his condolences to families who had lost loved ones, and thanked the authorities for the welcome he had received.