Outrage in Turkey as UK says it plans offshore asylum centers for Afghans

Turkish opposition leaders were outraged over the U.K.'s plan to establish asylum centers for Afghans in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey. "Are you being the subcontractor of the British to save your seat, Mr. Erdoğan?" İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener asked.

Afghans continue to wait around the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to leave the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 21, 2021.

Duvar English 

Turkish opposition leaders slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on Aug. 22 said that the U.K. plans to establish offshore asylum centers for Afghan refugees in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey. 

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Good (İYİ) Party leader Meral Akşener addressed Erdoğan on Twitter, asking him whether a deal was reached with the U.K. regarding the Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

"My question to Erdoğan is: Are the countries that you have signed deals with in a position to say these things without even consulting the Turkish Republic? Or are they this bold because you reached a deal?" Kılıçdaroğlu asked on Aug. 22. 

"Which one is correct? Be honest for once!" he added. 

Erdoğan last week urged European countries to take responsibility for migrants coming from Afghanistan, adding Turkey had no intention of becoming "Europe's refugee warehouse" amid turmoil in the country after the Taliban's takeover.

Kılıçdaroğlu has been accusing Erdoğan of reaching deals with foreign countries, mainly the U.S., to prevent Afghans from reaching Europe and keeping them in Turkey instead. The main opposition leader has been urging the president to reveal the terms of the deals. 

"Erdoğan, I'm asking you: How can refugees who are 2,400 kilometers away from us threaten us? You said your government is in control of the borders? Is it not true? We know that you're not in control deliberately," the CHP chair said on Aug. 16.

"You're admitting that you can't protect the borders and that you're keeping your promise to [U.S. President Joe] Biden," Kılıçdaroğlu added, before going on to ask whether foreign countries are threatening Erdoğan with his personal wealth.

The United States last week denied Kılıçdaroğlu's claims on a refugee deal between Erdoğan and Biden.

Kılıçdaroğlu on Aug. 22 also slammed the U.K. for abandoning Afghans to die. 

"It's inhumane to abandon Afghans who served you to death. You can be sure that our people won't carry the burden of your irresponsibility. You can't bring anyone to our soil their way!" he said. 

Akşener, meanwhile, asked Erdoğan whether he made promises to the British to obtain political gains. 

"Are you being the subcontractor of the British to save your seat, Mr. Erdoğan?" Akşener, a right-wing politician, asked on Aug. 22. 

Akşener last week reiterated her call to implement a stricter border policy, saying that the new influx must be prevented.

"There is no stupider policy than opening the borders," she said on Aug. 16, noting that Turkey already houses over 3.6 million Syrian refugees.

'No official request has been conveyed'

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Aug. 22 released a statement to refute the U.K. upon backlash. 

"The news in the U.K. press concerning that there are plans to establish an asylum processing center for Afghan asylum-seekers in Turkey do not reflect the truth," it said. 

"No official request has been conveyed to us from any country up until today. Should there be such a request, we would not accept it anyway," the ministry added.