BBC Turkish apologizes for attributing remarks on Afghan refugee hub to UK minister

The BBC’s Turkish service issued a statement of apology on Aug. 23 for mistakenly attributing remarks about supposed plans to “establish a processing hub for Afghan refugees in Turkey” to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. The BBC Turkish said that the remarks actually came from reports in Daily Mail and The Guardian based on U.K. Defense Ministry sources.

People try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug 16 in this file photo.

Duvar English - Anadolu Agency

The BBC’s Turkish service apologized on Aug. 23 for attributing remarks about supposed plans to establish a "processing hub for Afghan refugees in Turkey" to Britain’s defense chief, as the remarks actually came from British media commentary on U.K. plans in the region.

"A series of 'processing hubs' will be set up in countries neighboring Afghanistan for refugees who manage to escape,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace wrote in a guest piece in the Mail on Aug. 22.

“If they can establish their right to come to the UK, they will be flown to Britain," he added.

Wallace did not mention any country in his piece, but some British media outlets elaborated further in follow-up reports, saying that there were plans to establish a “processing hub” in Turkey for Afghan asylum-seekers. They based their reports on U.K. Defense Ministry sources. 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry shot down the reports, saying that the U.K. has not presented Turkey with any plans to establish a refugee center to process Afghan migrants.

"The news in the UK press saying there are plans to establish an asylum processing center for Afghan asylum-seekers in Turkey does not reflect the truth," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a written statement on Aug. 22.

Ankara also said that it would reject any such proposal.

BBC Turkish later issued an apology, saying that its news piece mistakenly attributed the statements to Wallace, whereas the remarks were made in The Guardian and Daily Mail.

"We would like to point out that they are actually statements that belong to the British defense secretary,” said BBC Turkish.

“They are information mentioned in (British outlets) The Guardian and Mail on Sunday newspapers as a statement of intent that Turkey and Pakistan were also considered, with reference to the British Ministry of Defense, and this news was mistakenly attributed to the minister," it added.

As the Taliban’s recent rapid takeover of Afghanistan spurred a refugee exodus, Turkish officials have said that Turkey will not accept a new wave of Afghan refugees.

“Turkey does not have a capacity to take in one more refugee, to bear this burden. Turkey is not a refugee camp. Here is also no place for passengers to stop by,” ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik said during a press conference on Aug. 23.