EU to help Afghanistan’s neighbours cope with refugees

A “copy and paste” of the Turkish refugee deal would not be a good idea, Commissioner Johansson says

Photo: EPA European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson (L) and Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese (R) at the start of an extraordinary EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels, 31 August 2021.

European Union justice and home affairs ministers pledged on Tuesday to support Afghanistan’s neighbours to help them host people fleeing the new Taliban regime and prevent a new wave of migrants heading to Europe, AP reported. In a closing statement following a meeting in Brussels, the ministers said the EU and its 27 nations “stand determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past, by preparing a coordinated and orderly response.”

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said there has not been a big exodus of Afghans out of the war-torn country so far but insisted there is a huge risk of a humanitarian crisis “if the Taliban turns out to be the same Taliban that we have seen in the past.” Johansson added that the EU is “quite far from recognizing the Taliban regime.”

The EU said it will cooperate with the Afghan government following the Taliban’s return to power only if they respect fundamental rights and oppose the use of Afghan soil by terror groups.

Johansson noted that the EU has already frozen development aid to Afghanistan to apply pressure on the Taliban.

The meeting came the day after the last US forces flew out of Kabul’s international airport, ending America’s longest war. Johansson said all the EU staff and Afghans who worked for European institutions have now been evacuated.

The ministers said the EU should boost its support to countries around Afghanistan “to ensure that those in need receive adequate protection, primarily in the region.” The plan is reminiscent of the deal the EU sealed with Turkey after over 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015, many of them fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq. To persuade Turkey to stop people from leaving its territory, the 27-nation bloc offered the country 6 billion euros to help Syrian refugees.

Johansson, however, said a “copy and paste” of the Turkish refugee deal would not be a good idea and that support to Afghanistan’s neighbors should be tailor-made.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made clear that his country wouldn’t back a system for distributing refugees from Afghanistan across the EU. He told reporters in Berlin that Austria had already taken in a “bigger than proportionate share” of migrants since 2015.

Austria already has the fourth-largest Afghan community worldwide, he said before a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel said, for Germany, the focus now is on how to help between 10,000 and 40,000 Afghans who are entitled to come to Germany with their close family members because they had worked for the German military or aid organizations.

The EU ministers also stressed the need to ensure that Afghanistan does not once again become a haven for terrorists. “All efforts must be pursued to ensure that the Taliban regime ceases all ties and practices with international terrorism and that Afghanistan does not become once again a sanctuary for terrorists and organised crime groups”, the closing statement said.

Rights groups were critical of the EU’s focus on keeping migrants close to Afghanistan. Amnesty International said in a letter to Johansson that the EU and its nations “must refrain from extremely damaging responses that put emphasis on keeping the EU’s border ‘protected’ and proposing or adopting measures that shift the responsibility for the protection of refugees to third countries.”

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, in Islamabad on Tuesday and said Pakistan has hosted more than 3 million Afghan refugees in previous decades and lacks the capacity to absorb more.

According to some EU estimates, around 570,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in Europe since 2015.

More on this subject: Migration crisis

Similar articles