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Turkey opposition leader offers Austria $3.6bn to house all Afghan refugees

Leader of IYI Party, Meral Aksener speaks during her party's group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, Turkey on 9 June 2021. [Evrim Aydın - Anadolu Agency]
Leader of IYI Party, Meral Aksener speaks during her party's group meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, Turkey on 9 June 2021. [Evrim Aydın - Anadolu Agency]

A Turkish opposition leader has offered Austria €3 billion ($3.56 billion) to take all the Afghan refugees residing in Turkey, in reaction to the Austrian prime minister's suggestion last week that Turkey should keep all refugees within its borders.

The chairman of Turkey's IYI (Good) Party, Meral Aksener, condemned Sebastian Kurz's comments as inappropriate on Tuesday, stating: "This tactless Austrian prime minister said that all Afghans should stay in Turkey and he could pay us."

"I'm telling the so-called Austrian prime minister, we will give you €3 billion so you can take all the refugees." Her response to the Austrian prime minister is said to refer to the European Union's pledge to provide €3 billion to help Turkey host refugees last month.

Six years after the EU struck a deal with Turkey to provide funding to help Ankara support and deal with the refugees from Syria and elsewhere in return for keeping them out of mainland Europe, much of the Turkish opposition has grown frustrated with the situation, labelling the funds as "hush money".

Earlier this month, hundreds of Afghan migrants and refugees were seen entering Turkey from Iran, with the aim of fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan and the intense Taliban offensive on areas under the control of the government in Kabul.

READ: Afghans accuse Iranian forces of abuse before being released at Turkey border

Following that influx, Turkish officials reportedly confirmed that almost 1,500 Afghan migrants had been detained after illegally entering the country. With a bigger influx predicted as the Taliban continues to make gains, Turkey strengthened its border defences; digging trenches and extending a concrete wall along its frontier with Iran.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also retaliated against Kurz's comments earlier this week, stating that "Turkey will not assume a mass migration crisis that arises from the region and will not bear a new migration wave." It added: "While conveying our approach to our interlocutors at every occasion and level, we reiterate that Turkey will not be the border guard or refugee camp of the European Union."

This is not the first time that the Turkish opposition has openly expressed its dissatisfaction with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)'s policy of hosting over three and a half million refugees, with the main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu last week announcing that he would deport all of the country's Syrian refugees back to their home country and restore ties with the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

READ: Turkey probes mayor's anti-refugee sentiments

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