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EU draws iron-curtain on Afghan refugees, says migrants should be settled in neighbourhood

Afghan children shelter in Greece in 2020 (Photo: IANS)

The Afghan crisis after the takeover of the country by Taliban militants is creating another problem—a possible refugee influx into European nations.

On Tuesday, European Union (EU) Ministers of Home Affairs met for an extraordinary meeting to discuss migration and security issues in the wake of changes in Afghanistan. The meeting resolved to provide support to Afghanistan's neighbours so that Afghans fleeing the conflict could be accommodated as near Afghanistan as possible.

An EU statement said: "The EU will engage and strengthen its support to third countries, in particular the neighbouring and transit countries, hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, to reinforce their capacities to provide protection, dignified and safe reception conditions and sustainable livelihood for refugees and host communities. The EU will also cooperate with those countries to prevent illegal migration from the region, reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings".

European countries do not want to see a repeat of the 2015 crisis when the first wave of migration hit European shores after the crisis in Syria and Iraq. Millions of migrants from these two countries, and a few others from conflict-torn countries like Afghanistan, reached Europe for shelter. At that time, the EU struck a deal with Turkey for Euro 6 billion so that it could accommodate Syrian refugees.

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “We need to work comprehensively in the region with Afghans in Afghanistan and in the neighboring countries. The best way to prevent a migratory crisis is to prevent a humanitarian crisis".

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Apart from large-scale migration, the EU is keen that the Taliban does not allow the country to become a hub of terrorism once again. This too is reflected in its statement, that says: "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 EU will use all its available tools to closely monitor and respond to developments on the ground that might impact its security, in particular in the area of organised crime and terrorism, including its financing".

Johansson said that though there has not been a big exodus of Afghans as yet but hinted that a humanitarian crisis could occur “if the Taliban turns out to be the same Taliban that we have seen in the past."

Like most other countries, the EU has not given recognition to the Taliban yet. It also is observing whether the Taliban will honour the statements given over the past fortnight, many of which seem to indicate a reformed organisation which is keen to drop its historical fundamentalist tag. On the positive side, the EU also said that it will cooperate with the Taliban only if it respects fundamental rights of the Afghans and does not allow terror groups to operate from Afghan soil.

Many European countries have hardened their stand about accepting more refugees due to concerns within their communities. Austria has said no while Turkey and Greece have constructed border walls on routes likely to be taken by the migrants. Other EU countries too are building fences.

The EU plan to limit the number of Afghans has come in for criticism. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli said: "We have seen countries outside the EU come forward to welcome Afghan asylum seekers, but we have not seen a single member state do the same”. The Italian politician said that the EU legislature was “very disappointed” at the outcome of talks among the bloc’s interior ministers on Tuesday.

The European Parliament, however, can do little on foreign affairs and migration because individual countries hold sway. And, they have made up their mind.

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