Afghanistan: Plea for help as those left in 'serious situation'

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The EU is drawing up plans to prevent Afghan refugees from flooding into the bloc after their homeland fell to the Taliban. Governments fear a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis that saw one million people arrive from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa. EU home affairs ministers are set to agree on a joint statement after an emergency meeting in Brussels today.

“The EU and its member states stand determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled, large-scale, illegal migration movements faced in the past,” a leaked draft of the communication stated.

Member states are hopeful that ministers can agree on a package of measures in an attempt to “protect the EU external borders and prevent unauthorised entries”.

These could include deploying more officials from the EU’s Frontex border force or developing “new tools to deter attempts to instrumentalist illegal migration for political purposes”.

This is seen as a direct warning to Belarus, Turkey and Russia, which EU officials believe are guilty of using illegal immigration in a “hybrid war” against Brussels.

But the EU’s wrangling over a new anti-migration plan is expected to result in bitter in-fighting between its member states.

A number of the bloc’s governments take a hardline stance against migration, while others are more open to resettling fleeing Afghans.

Luxembourg hinted that the EU risked being seen as stingy by refusing to make a similar pledge as Britain to take in refugees escaping the Taliban.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to rehouse 20,000 people from Afghanistan, a promise Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn believes the EU should match.

Arriving at the emergency meeting, Mr Asselborn told reporters: “We can’t accept all of them, it’s true, but at least some. We should at least open the door so the European Commission can make proposals.

“It can’t be just the UK that has pledged 20,000 settlements. Europe must also go in that direction.

In 2015, with the Syrian crisis, the EU faced a problem and we were not prepared. That’s clear. Six years later, we are less prepared to face this problem than in 2015. It’s terrible to say so.

“For people at higher risk in Afghanistan, Europe must not be just the UK, which has promised 20,000 resettlements. What about the EU? Even if it is not possible to give numbers today, we should at least open the door so the Commission can act.”

He was demanding that a reference of a similar pledge should be included in the ministerial statement released after their get-together.

The EU is planning to welcome just 30,000 Afghan migrants by the end of next year, according to the current plans.

But no specific number has been set out in an official text released by the bloc.

Other EU countries, including Germany, are understood to be hesitant to publish a large number because of fears it could act as a pull factor.

James Cleverly: UK will continue to help people in Afghanistan

Germany is expected to lead opposition against the publication of a figure.

Its interior minister Horst Seehoffer said: “Mr Asselborn should look at the problems of the big countries in the EU more. We are not talking about hundreds of people, but about many thousands who are already in Germany.

“And we have to make sure, we know this from the past, that we know who enters the country and that these people are not a security risk for the people in Germany. I would like to impart that on Mr Asselborn.

“After all, Luxembourg is always represented at these things with very small numbers. And they should be a little more considerate towards the interests of those countries who are mainly taking them in.”

The current draft statement makes clear that “incentives to illegal migration should be avoided”.

This is a warning to EU states that might encourage Afghans to travel to the bloc by being more generous than their neighbours.

Ministers will also ponder plans to pump in money to countries close to Afghanistan in the hope of persuading refugees against making the often treacherous journey to Europe.

“The EU should also strengthen support to the countries in Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood to ensure that those in need receive adequate protection primarily in the region,” the draft statement sets out.

The cash could come from the EU’s so-called Neighbourhood Development and International-Cooperation funds.

The instruments have a budget of more than £68 billion between 2021 and 2021.

The text added: “The EU will also cooperate with those countries to … reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega and Monika Pallenberg

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