Sixteen members of an Afghan family have been stranded at Istanbul Airport for three weeks after escaping their country amid ongoing negotiations on the specific mechanisms of achieving lasting peace between the Afghan government and Taliban after U.S. troops permanently pull out by September.
The family of 16, including adults, elderly people and babies, arrived in Turkey on June 22 but were left stuck at the airport because of visa irregularities, a situation that has been likened to the Hollywood film “The Terminal,” where Tom Hanks plays a man marooned in an airport.
Speaking to the BBC’s Turkish service, the family members said they arrived in Turkey without visas and their entrance was denied by authorities, but that they were now refusing to go back to Afghanistan because of concerns about political tensions and threats they received from the Taliban.
The family used to live in the city of Herat, currently under attack by the Taliban, according to a family member whose name has been changed to “Ahmed” for security reasons.
Ahmed worked for Blumont, a U.S.-based international aid organization in Afghanistan, and some of his relatives had been to the U.S. before. But they later started receiving death threats from the Taliban after a while.
When one of their relatives was killed by the Taliban last month, the family decided to flee and first arrived in Kabul from Herat, and then to Istanbul by air. But eventually, they were not accepted into the country since they don’t have Turkish visas and began to live in a terminal of the airport.
Noting that they have filed an international protection application, the family states that they will be at risk of death if they are sent back to Afghanistan, and therefore prefer to wait at the door of a “new life” in Istanbul.
“The Taliban know we have fled. If we go back, they will kill us all. In no way can we return to our country. There is no way around it. But Turkey is trying to send us back. We don’t want to die,” Ahmed told BBC Turkish.
No statement was made by the General Directorate of Migration Authority and the airport administration.
Meanwhile, thousands of mostly young people fleeing from Afghanistan flocked to Turkey’s eastern border, leaving conflict, violence, and despair behind in search of a better life.
Some 500 to 1,000 Afghans cross into Turkey via illegal routes every day due to the fear of the Taliban, according to security officials.
Hurriyet Daily News