ANKARA (Dispatches) – The Turkish government has criticized a U.S. plan to use third countries such as Turkey to resettle thousands of Afghans who risk being targeted by Taliban militants over their Washington links, saying the move would cause a “great migration crisis” in the region.
Weeks before the U.S. is set to complete the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of occupation, its Department of State on Monday announced a new program under which certain categories of Afghans will have a chance to resettle as refugees in the U.S. The scheme 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.
Afghans in the program would have to make their own way to a third country, where they will wait 12 to 14 months for their application to be processed.
But the Turkish foreign ministry on Tuesday rejected the reference to Turkey as a migration route for Afghans, adding that the country, already hosting more than four million refugees, would not “undertake a new migration crisis on behalf of a third country”.
“As Turkey, we do not accept the irresponsible decision taken by the United States without consulting our country. If the United States wants to take these people to its country, it is possible to transfer them directly to their country by planes,” the ministry said in a statement.
“No one should expect the Turkish nation to bear the burden of the migration crises experienced as a result of the decisions of third countries in our region,” it added.
There was no immediate reaction to the U.S. announcement by Pakistan and Iran.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have already been strained over a host of issues, ranging from Ankara’s move to purchase Russian air defense equipment to legal issues and policy differences in Syria, Libya, and the eastern Mediterranean.