Why six EU countries are demanding Brussels acts on Afghanistan deportation ban

Afghanistan: ‘Thousands displaced’ to Kabul reveals expert

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EU countries have banded together to criticise and challenge the bloc over its decision to halt deportations of rejected asylum seekers from Afghanistan. Overall, 44,000 Afghans requested protection in 2020, meaning the nation was the “second most important country of origin” for asylum seekers in the EU last year.

Six EU countries have warned the bloc against halting deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers in Europe.

In a joint statement the six countries – including Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany – said open door policies would encourage more arrivals into the EU.

In the letter sent on August 5, the countries said: “Stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU.”

They added: “This is why we urge you and your teams at the Commission to intensify talks with the Afghan government on how returns to Afghanistan can and will continue in the coming months.”

Whether to send back Afghans denied asylum in the EU has become a highly contentious topic in recent days.

This is because Taliban forces continue to capture key cities throughout the country.

The Taliban has been fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 oust, and the terrorist group has made sweeping gains in their campaign to defeat the government as US-led foreign forces pull out.

The group is now estimated to control 65 percent of Afghanistan with US leader Joe Biden withdrawing US troops and leaving the Afghan Government to fight alone.

The guerilla army has waged war in Afghanistan on multiple fronts, resulting in thousands of families fleeing the provinces in the hopes of finding safety in the nation’s capital of Kabul.

Mr Biden said he did not regret his decision to withdraw troops and urged Afghan leaders to fight for their homeland on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, a US defence official revealed the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and potentially take over the city in just 90 days.

The official told Reuters: “But this is not a foregone conclusion.”

He said Afghan security forces could reverse momentum recently gained by the guerilla group by putting up more resistance.

He said: “The fear is of suicide bombers entering the diplomatic quarters to scare, attack and ensure everyone leaves at the earliest opportunity.”

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The six EU countries have expressed concern about the rate of departure of asylum seekers in Afghanistan.

Many EU member states are nervous about how this potential expansion of control for Kabul could trigger a replay of Europe’s 2015/2016 migration crisis.

The crisis saw the chaotic arrival of more than a million people from the Middle East which stretched security and welfare systems, as well as fuelling support for far-right groups.

The European Commission confirmed it had received the letter and would reply when ready.

The Commission considers Afghanistan a safe country to which asylum seekers can be returned and therefore one spokesman said it at the decision of EU member states to make a judgement on the return of asylum seekers.

Since 2015, around 570,000 Afghans have requested asylum in the EU.

According to the letter sent by the six nations, 44,000 of those were in 2020 alone – making Afghanistan the second most important country of origin last year.

A senior EU official said an estimated 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced over recent months and in recent days there has been an increase in numbers of people fleeing to Iran.

Speaking of the estimated 4.6 million displaced Afghans, the countries added: “We fully recognise the sensitive situation in Afghanistan in light of the foreseen withdrawal of international troops.”

However, they added the best way to support refugees was to increase cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Despite this stance, the issue is expected to be a key topic at the upcoming crisis meeting of EU domestic affairs ministers on August 18.

The meeting was scheduled to discuss a surge in illegal border crossings from Belarus into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland during 2021.

The three nations claim the surge in illegal crossings is a retaliatory measure from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko – after Warsaw’s decision to give refuge to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who refused to return home after the Tokyo Olympics.

The US, UK and Canada tightened sanctions in a bid to increase pressure on President Lukashenko’s regime.

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