17th Apr 2024

Afghans' plight reignites migration fears in Europe

EU foreign affairs ministers will hold an emergency virtual meeting on Tuesday (17 August), as fears mount in Europe over a new influx of refugees from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover there.

Ministers are expected to discuss the security situation and migration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Several EU member states are worried that the Taliban takeover would trigger a replay of the 2015-16 migration crisis when the bloc saw the arrival of over 1 million asylum seekers in a matter of months.

While EU leaders are under pressure to take in Afghans who had been desperately trying to get out of the country, they are also reluctant to be seen as offering incentives to leave Afghanistan.

French president Emmanuel Macron on Monday evening said that the EU would set up an initiative to thwart the large migrant flows now expected from the country, cracking down on illegal people smuggling rings that risk emerging, AFP reported.

France, Germany, and other EU countries would put together a response that was "robust, coordinated and united" to prevent irregular migration by harmonising criteria and showing European solidarity, he said in a televised statement.

Macron called on the UN Security Council to come up with a "reasonable and unified" response and said he had spoken to UK prime minister Boris Johnson, adding that "joint initiatives" would be agreed in the next hours.

"We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds," Macron said, adding that France will continue to help activists, artists, journalists who risk being targeted because of their work.

In Germany, German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters Monday night that Afghanistan is "an extremely bitter development.

"Bitter, dramatic, terrible - especially of course for the people in Afghanistan," Merkel said in Berlin, adding that a special EU summit might be needed to discuss the situation.

"We all made the wrong assessment," she said.

Meanwhile, her possible successor, German Christian Democrat leader Armin Laschet said the situation should not lead to the repeat of the 2015 migration crisis.

"We should not send the signal that Germany can take in everyone in need," he said, adding that "the focus must be on humanitarian aid on site, unlike in 2015," he said.

The competing Greens' candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, said Germany must take in at least 10,000 local staff who have worked for the German military or other Nato countries.

But Austria, for its part, still insists on deporting failed asylum seekers.

On Monday, Vienna suggested setting up "deportation centres" in nearby countries as an alternative.

"If deportations are no longer possible because of the restrictions imposed on us by the European Convention on Human Rights, alternatives must be considered," Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer said in a joint statement with foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg.

Austria was one of six EU countries that warned the EU Commission last week against halting the deportation of failed Afghan asylum seekers arriving in Europe. Since then, four of the six - Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands - have reversed course.

Caroline Van Buren, a UN refugee agency representative in Afghanistan recently said that between 20,000 and 30,000 Afghans were leaving the country on a weekly basis.

However, only a few thousand irregular border crossings by Afghans nationals were reported at the EU external borders.

Meanwhile, at the end of July, Turkey had already started to build a wall an effort to stop an influx of people from Afghanistan from crossing into the country through Iran.

The massive concrete structure, in the eastern province of Van, stretches 64km long, Reuters reported at the time.

Germany and Netherlands halt returns of Afghans

Last week, six EU countries, including Germany, and the Netherlands, said forced returns must continue despite violence in Afghanistan. Now they have changed their mind. Belgian Greens are also criticising the decision.

EU states resume evacuations from Kabul

EU countries have resumed evacuations from Kabul airport, the last piece of allied-controlled territory in Afghanistan, as Taliban forces urged people to return to normal life.

Von der Leyen offers funding for resettling Afghans

EU Commission chief said the EU executive was ready to provide funding for EU countries that helped resettle refugees and planned to raise the resettlement issue at a G7 meeting on Tuesday


Afghanistan: Europe's disgrace

Last year, 1,200 Afghans were deported from the EU. Thousands of them left voluntarily. Clearly 2021 is not 2015, despite what some governments might say.

EU 'ready' to support Cyprus on Lebanon migration

The EU is ready to offer extra support to Cyprus as the Mediterranean island faces a sharp increase in refugees arriving from Lebanon, a spokesperson for the EU executive told reporters on Thursday (4 April).

Latest News

  1. EU leaders mull ways to arrest bloc's economic decline
  2. Police ordered to end far-right 'Nat-Con' Brussels conference
  3. How Hungary's teachers are taking on Viktor Orban
  4. What do we actually mean by EU 'competitiveness'?
  5. New EU envoy Markus Pieper quits before taking up post
  6. EU puts Sudan war and famine-risk back in spotlight
  7. EU to blacklist Israeli settlers, after new sanctions on Hamas
  8. Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us