Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu addressed the rising anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey, saying Pakistanis and Afghans sent money to Turkey during the Turkish War Independence when the nation was going through a "difficult time."
Soylu said that it was through this money that İşbank – Turkey's first national bank – was founded.
“They are saying, 'Afghans are coming to Turkey,' but they are not only coming to us, they are also going to the West. I would like to say to those who are criticizing this: When this nation was in a difficult time, when it did not have even one weapon and bullet, Pakistanis and Afghans sold their bracelets and sent it [the money] to Turkey,” Soylu said July 28.
The minister made the remarks as he visited the Black Sea province of Artvin, which has been recently hit by devastating landslides and floods.
“With the money that was leftover, İşbank was founded. If we forget everything, the future generations will also forget us,” he said.
Soylu made the remarks amid a rising anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey, with some opposition politicians vowing to ensure the return of refugees to their countries if their parties win the elections, in what appears to be an attempt to attract voters.
On July 27, İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener reacted against Austrian Kurz Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz's statement that Turkey is the “more suitable place” for Afghan refugees to stay at, compared to Germany, Austria or Sweden.
“This impertinent Austrian prime minister said, 'Let all refugees, Afghans stay in Turkey, and let us give money.' I hereby tell the person who is Austrian prime minister, 'Let us give you 3 billion euros, and you take in all [refugees] we have,” Akşener said.
Thousands of Afghans have been reported to cross into eastern Turkey from Iran in recent days, after a rise in violence in their own country as the United States and its NATO allies withdraw and Taliban fighters seize territory.
Turkish officials said last week they had detained 1,500 irregular migrants, most of them Afghans, near the Iranian border in the previous 10 days.
Turkey is building a wall along a 64-km stretch of the Iranian border in the eastern province of Van, where many of the refugees cross.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says there were over 100,000 Afghan asylum seekers in Turkey last year.