After the Taliban came to power, many knew only one way out: out of Afghanistan. How many will go to the West is uncertain. The question also remains unanswered: what to do with people?
The pictures of the airport in Kabul make it clear how desperate people are in Afghanistan. In Europe, they bring back memories of a wave of migration from Syria six years ago. While CDU vice-president Thomas Stroble has warned that 2015 should not happen again, the EU Commission’s vice-president, Margaritis Schinas, insists on an agreement on migration policy.
The willingness to take in Afghan refugees is still limited. With direct neighbors shutting themselves down and increasing pressure in Europe, states react vigorously. The main concern is the massive increase in the number of internally displaced persons since the withdrawal of international troops in early May. According to the United Nations, by the beginning of August 390,000 Afghans had fled the districts to the provincial capitals.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 30,000 people left the country every week in August. How the refugee movement will develop after the Taliban comes to power can only be speculated at the moment. According to a United Nations report published on Sunday, many internally displaced people in Kabul have already indicated they will return to their villages in the country’s north.
hardly any help from neighboring countries
No matter how developed the number of refugees, the willingness to take in people is not very good in this region or in Europe. Pakistan, which is home to 1.4 million Afghans as per UNHCR information, is now further sealing itself with its completed border fence. Interior Minister Shaharyar Khan Afridi said the country plans to reach refugee camps on the Afghan border.
Thousands of Afghans have been living in neighboring Iran for decades. The dramatic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the current economic crisis have made it less likely that the country will take in more refugees. That’s why many Afghans use Iran to travel through Turkey. It is estimated that there are about half a million Afghans living there. President Erdogan is now talking of a new “migration wave” that will no longer be tolerated. Entry and exit in the future “should be completely stopped”, Erdogan insisted. A wall on the eastern border with Iran is believed to have stopped the flow of refugees.
Tajikistan wants to accept at least as many refugees and is setting up a camp for this purpose. As recently as early last month, more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers sought refuge in the Central Asian state. Like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan has also strengthened its border security.
Turkey no longer wants to be a “refugee camp for Europe”
In view of the situation in Afghanistan, the foreign ministers of the European Union met on Tuesday for consultations via video conferencing. Negotiations with new rulers are inevitableEuropean Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell said. Humanitarian aid will continue to be provided. In addition, Borrell promised European support in all transits to Afghanistan and neighboring countries accepting Afghan refugees.
“Nobody invited you here. If you don’t like it, go away”
However, these promises no longer sound attractive. There may be a rift between Turkey and the European Union over the Afghan refugee issue. The country already has financial aid for Syrian refugees under the refugee treaty. Another three billion could flow into projects for Afghans. However, Erdogan does not see his country as “a refugee camp for Europe”. The international community could not escape the “problem”. “If this happens, Europe will not only violate international law, but will also turn its back on human values,” Erdogan said on Thursday.
No information on entry of refugees
It looks like Europe is on its own now. But even here there can be disputes between member states. Austria in particular refuses to accept more refugees from Afghanistan. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehmer told “Welt” that “talking to Afghanistan’s neighbors was now a top priority to ensure security and aid in the region”. There is no reason why an Afghan should come to Austria. The country also wants to stop deportation. Instead, the interior minister spoke in favor of deportation centers in Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.
Migration Minister Notice Mittarakis made a similar statement on Greek state television. “We don’t want our country to become a gateway to the European Union for people who want to leave for Europe.” Greece will monitor Turkey’s maritime and land borders to prevent a possible influx of migrants from Afghanistan.
French President Emmanuel Macron in a televised address on Monday spoke out against the “irregular refugee flow” from Afghanistan and was criticized for it. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said there should be an international initiative to provide a home for Afghans seeking asylum. However, France left open how many refugees it wanted to take.
The Netherlands is currently discussing the admission of refugees working for the aid organizations of the NATO mission. Spain also initially agreed to temporarily accept refugee Afghans working for Western and European organizations. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi insisted that those who campaigned for women’s rights and worked with the West should be given priority. However, countries are keeping a low profile on how to proceed.
Germany also makes no commitment to refugee troops
Germany is currently limited to providing on-site assistance. “I believe we should no longer send the signal that Germany can basically take on everyone it needs now,” Armin Lachette said on Deutschlandfunk.
Recently, the German government provided 100 million euros to support refugees in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. Alexander Dobrindt, leader of the CSU regional group, told the “New Osnabrücker Zeitung”: “Not repeating the mistakes of 2015 also means that we will give more support to UN refugee aid in combating the causes of flight on the ground.” German citizens and Afghan local workers would have to be evacuated, but there would be no general commitment to accept refugee squads in Germany.
Given the border fences put in place by Turkey and Pakistan, the question remains how many refugees will actually travel from Afghanistan to other countries. Because many routes are now closed, a new mass migration towards Europe seems impossible. On the other hand, the many calls for help from Afghans and aid organizations putting moral pressure on the EU cannot be ignored.
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