Afghan migrants struggle after long journeys to Turkey

Afghans now make up the majority of irregular migrants based in Turkey, according to official Turkish statistics reported by news agency balcanicaucaso. Many of these Afghans, both economic migrants and asylum seekers, attempt the journey to Europe via Turkey in the hopes of a promising economic future and safe haven.

However, thousands said they have found themselves stuck in Turkey instead, since the European Union-Turkey deal was signed three years ago. Under the deal, the EU can return all irregular migrants passing through Turkey back to the country. Turkey will also reinforce border security and receive support from the EU for managing the flow of migrants and asylum seekers.

Aid agencies say the migration pattern is prompted by increasing insecurity in Afghanistan and the deteriorating economic situation in Iran, causing more to seek out opportunities in Turkey and Europe. “The war in Afghanistan has been going on for 40 years now. As a result of the unstable and dangerous environment, unemployment rates are very high. The situation is getting worse every day. More and more Afghans are arriving in Turkey through Iran,” said Zakira Hekmat, founder of the Afghan Refugees Solidarity and Aid Association in Turkey.

These migrants now struggle to build a livelihood in Turkey. Zabihullah, 18, said he left Faryab province and journeyed via Pakistan and Iran to arrive in Turkey in 2018. He now tries each day to obtain a job at a construction site, which pays him just USD 12 for 12 hours of work. “I can’t find a job every day. Supporting my family financially is my dream but right now it is not possible,” he said.

Exploitation is also common in these work agreement. Many told balcanicaucaso that they are sometimes not paid at the end of the day. “We are working under very hard conditions. And sometimes we cannot even get our money,” said Nacip, another migrant from Afghanistan.

If these irregular migrants are detained by the Turkish authorities and found unsuitable for asylum, they could be deported back to Afghanistan. In 2018, Ankara and Kabul signed an agreement to facilitate the forced deportation of irregular migrants from Turkey. According to the data from Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management, over 31,000 Afghan migrants were deported forcibly in the first year of the agreement. This makes up more than half of all those deported from Turkey in 2018.

“Police collected some of my friends last week. They are gone but I don’t want to go back to Afghanistan. We are at risk of being forced back to danger,” said Zabihullah, an Afghan migrant. Although Turkey claims that deportations are voluntarily, rights groups such as Amnesty International have said violence and force has been used in these mass deportations.

TMP – 09/04/2019

Photo: Yavuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock. Unidentified women and men harvest potatoes in the field as a seasonal worker in agricultural production sector