Unregistered Afghan refugees get no COVID protection in Turkey

Undocumented Afghan refugees in Turkey are unable to get medical protection against COVID-19, the Voice of America reported on Monday.

The refugees are unable to get treatment and the vaccines for the virus, some who fled the country to escape the Taliban told Voice of America.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled to neighbouring countries following the Taliban takeover and the withdrawal of NATO forces in August. Turkey is hosting around 183,000 Afghan asylum-seekers, while 300,000 Afghans are permanently settled there, according to the United Nations.

While officially registered refugees qualify for health care in Turkey, unofficial estimates suggest thousands more undocumented Afghan migrants are living and working in the country and unable to access basic services such as health care, the VOA said.

Hospitals don’t offer treatment without ID cards, refugees in the central Turkish city of Erzurum, which is on a major route for migrants heading west to Europe, told the VOA.

“If any of those who don’t have an ID card catches coronavirus, the hospitals don’t treat them. Those who have no ID card cannot have a vaccine,” Afghan migrant Mohammed said.

Several refugees said they chose not to register with the authorities, fearing arrest and deportation, VOA said.

In an email to VOA, Selin Unal, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, said that other countries must help share the burden of caring for Afghan refugees, it said.

The UNHCR did not provide an estimate for the number of undocumented Afghan refugees living in Turkey but unable to access health care, the website added.



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