| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

Afghans in hiding amid rumoured immigration crackdown in Turkey

Baktash, who works at a garment factory in Istanbul, managed to escaped through a back door,  as Turkish police raided the place, and swept through looking for undocumented migrants.

“They come to our homes at night, too. Perhaps neighbors report us – many have been taken,” the Afghan refugee told The National.

Baktash was visiting 12 other undocumented Afghan men in a dilapidated two-room apartment in the working-class district of Zeytinburnu. Some of them arrived in the country as little as a week ago after fleeing in the run-up to the US pullout, amid a sweeping Taliban advance.

There is no furniture, only traditional floor cushions that serve as seating in the day and as beds at night.

In the face of an intense crackdown by Turkish police in recent weeks, the men say that sometimes they do not even go to work because they are so scared they could be caught and sent back to Afghanistan. In one August raid in the eastern province of Van, a migrant transit hub near the border with Iran, 115 mostly Afghans were detained in just two apartments.

The men keep the curtains shut at all times to keep any prying eyes out.

“People don’t go out any more,” said Baktash, 27, a former interpreter for the US military who now works informally operating sewing machines to make cheap clothing.

Baktash is eligible to be resettled in the US due to his former work, but has been unable to understand the complicated application process. He is gaunt, eyes sunken after days of no sleep as he tries to find ways to get his family out of Afghanistan. They are at heightened risk from the Taliban due to his former work.