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Afghans make long trek west before Turkey secures border

Afghans make long trek west before Turkey secures border

KABUL: Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, Rasulbek plans to try to earn some money in eastern Turkey before heading further west to Istanbul in sarch of a job to support his family back home.

The number of Afghans arriving in Turkey tripled in the first three months of the year to 27,000, driven by conflict and poverty and fears that the route may soon be closing.

While the numbers are small compared to the 3.5 million Syrians who have taken refuge in Turkey, the influx will further strain Turkish authorities, who have flown hundreds of Afghans back to Kabul and are building a wall on the border with Iran and a new detention center close to the frontier.

That has not deterred Rasulbek, walking with three other migrants on the edge of a highway in the foothills of Mount Ararat, the snow-capped peak which towers over eastern Turkey and is associated with the Bible story of Noah’s ark.

Many of them paid smugglers to get them across the porous and hilly border – often handing over $600 to $1,000, the migrants say. Across the countryside groups of them can be seen walking by the roads with few clothes and possessions.