Afghan refugees settle in Ankara park


As Turkey builds prefabricated camps for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees crossing from Syria to Turkey, a park in Turkey’s capital Ankara has become home for hundreds of Afghan refugees.

Fleeing their country, the Afghan refugees managed to reach Iran and then smuggled themselves from the eastern Turkish border into the country, making their way to the public park in Ankara.

No shelter or aid is provided for the refugees. They live in make shift tents and wait for assistance.

One refugee, Abdullah, told Reuters he was forced to leave Iran because his family was running out of money and he was unable to pursue work without legal documents.

“We were smuggled into Iran, but because of the situation there and because we did not have official documents we could not work. From there our families offered a helping hand and from the money we had we paid the smuggler.

Because my family knew of our situation they said you cannot provide for yourself, at least go to another country. So we came here. We have no more money to go further; they [his family] said we can support you up to here financially.

They did and so I reached here. We had no money, not from Afghanistan and not from inside Iran either,” said Abdullah.

With no money or assistance life for the refugee families is a struggle.

“We have just arrived and in consideration of the difficulties we faced, we request that the United Nations completes our case with urgency, wherever they send us. It doesn't matter to us if it is Turkey or another country, it is not an issue for us,” said Abdullah.

While some Afghan refugees have been housed by Turkish authorities more have arrived at the park to take their place.

The manager of the park, Vedat Akdere, told Reuters more than a thousand refugees have passed through.

“So far, in the past two months, around 1,200 refugees have passed through, everyday dozens of refugees come here,” said Akdere.

“Some of them who are placed at a proper shelter return here saying they didn’t like it there,” added Akdere.

Many of the refugees arrive at the camp needing urgent medical care.

“I have only just arrived today, I don’t know anything else. I want my eye operation, I didn't have any money. I have to have eye surgery, because I have contracted glaucoma in my eye,” said Aisha who arrived at the camp on Monday (September 17).

Intensifying violence as NATO combat troops prepare to leave by end-2014 and a poor economic outlook in the face of shrinking aid could spell a humanitarian disaster for Afghanistan, where a third already live beneath the poverty line.

Applications by Afghans seeking asylum reached their highest number in a decade, U.N. figures showed in January. Most were from those seeking work abroad.