Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Turkey currently hosts about 300,000 refugees from Afghanistan and not 1.5 million as was previously claimed by opposition parties, local media reported on Friday.
“There are currently 300,000 Afghan refugees in Turkey, registered and unregistered. Unfortunately, the numbers claimed by both the main opposition party and another opposition party are lies,” the president told reporters following Friday prayers, referring to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party.
“They are still talking about a refugee deal, even though the US denied the claims,” Erdoğan added, referring to an allegation made by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu earlier in August that he had brokered a deal with US President Joe Biden during their first meeting in June to allow 1 million Afghans into Turkey.
The US Embassy in Turkey on Wednesday stated in a tweet that “allegations regarding an ‘agreement’ or ‘deal’ between President Biden and President Erdoğan regarding Afghan refugees or migrants are completely without foundation.”
Turkey, which hosts some 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, is currently faced with an increasing number of Afghan nationals attempting to enter the country through Iran after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul last week. Between 500 and 1,000 Afghans are estimated to have arrived in Turkey each day since early July, according to Turkish media reports.
Kılıçdaroğlu on Friday criticized Erdoğan’s statements regarding the growing wave of Afghan migrants arriving in the country for being contradictory.
“In one TV program you say, ‘We will accept refugees, it’s a matter of principle’; half an hour later you say, ‘We’re building a wall on the [Iranian] border [to fend off illegal migrants].’ Your statements don’t match. You don’t know what you’re talking about,” the CHP leader said, addressing Erdoğan.
“Let’s ask our people whether [Afghan] refugees are flooding the country or not. They could answer that by looking around their neighborhoods, maybe you can’t see it from the [presidential] palace,” Kılıçdaroğlu added, reiterating his call for early elections, since the next general election is not scheduled to be held until 2023.
“In short, you’ve become a problem of survival [for this country], Erdoğan. You openly jeopardized the demographic structure of this country,” the CHP leader argued, adding that people cannot convey their real opinions to Erdoğan because he has been refusing to hold an early election. “But that day will come, you’ll see, and you’ll be confronted with the reality,” he said.
According to a poll recently conducted by the Konsensus Araştırma, a large majority of Turks are against accepting more refugees amid the Afghanistan crisis, with only 9.1 percent of respondents supporting the idea that Turkey accept new refugees.