‘Irresponsible Decision’: Turkey Says US' Refugee Programme for Afghans Could Cause 'Major Crisis'
© AP Photo / Hoshang HashimiAfghan refugees enter Afghan territory after leaving Iran at the Islam Qala border crossing in Kohsan, Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, 11 November 2012.
© AP Photo / Hoshang Hashimi
Turkey has warned that America's new 'Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 (P-2)' could result in an exodus of Afghans fleeing the insurgency-ravaged country. The new visa regime requires Afghan applicants to be in a third country to be granted a US refugee visa. Turkey already plays host to most refugees globally.
The Joe Biden administration’s proposal to resettle Afghan nationals from third countries in the US has been floated without “prior consultations” with Turkey and could lead to a “major refugee crisis” in the region, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
“Instead of looking for a solution among countries within the region, seeking a solution in Turkey without our consent is unacceptable,” said Ambassador Tanju Bilgic, the spokesman for Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The US may directly transport these people by plane,” advised the Turkish official.
Bilgic further remarked that the new US programme for Afghan refugees was tantamount to “abuse of our laws by third countries”.
“The Turkish nation cannot bear the burden of the refugee crisis resulting from decisions taken by third parties,” he added.
The strong-worded statement by America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) ally comes two days after the US State Department announced its Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 (P-2) for Afghan nationals (and their families) who have worked for the US government, US-based NGOs and American media organisations.
The new visa regime is an improvement on the already existing, 2009-era Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) initiative, which only allowed refugee visa applications from Afghans working for American missions or employed in any capacity by the US-led coalition forces.
However, only those Afghans who have managed to leave Afghanistan and are in a third country would be eligible for a P-2 visa, according to US State Department officials.
“We have to wait until they are outside the country to begin processing. From then on it is a regular refugee resettlement programme, and it is a somewhat lengthy process because there is a lot of security screening that goes on as part of the refugee programme in itself. That can take anywhere from 12 to 14 months,” officials said at a State Department briefing, spelling out the time frame of the new visa programme.
Also, under terms of the P-2 programme, Afghan refugees could only apply for a US visa through their employers, say officials.
The P-2 visa programme is being adopted as the Taliban* rapidly advances across Afghanistan, coinciding with the withdrawal of American forces after almost two decades.
The resurgence of the Taliban has resulted in countrywide fighting between Afghan forces and the insurgents. The civil war has led to nearly 270,000 people being displaced within Afghanistan between January and July this year, according to the UN Refugee Agency. The UN outfit has also claimed that to date more than 3.5 million Afghans have been uprooted from their home because of violence.
As of July, the Taliban was in control of 212 of Afghanistan's 426 districts, with the Afghan government in charge in 111 districts. The rest of the districts remain contested, as fighting continues between the insurgents and the government forces.
* A terrorist organisation which is forbidden in Russia and other nations.