European Union foreign ministers are holding emergency talks Tuesday to weigh the security implications of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan amid concern that widespread fear of hardline Islamist rule will provoke an exodus of people from the conflict-ravaged country.
Afghans are among the biggest group of nationalities seeking sanctuary in Europe, after Syrians. According to some EU estimates, around 570,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in Europe since 2015.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that France, Germany and other European partners would work swiftly on a “robust response” to any new influx of unauthorized migrants from Afghanistan.
He said the “organized and just international effort” would be marked by “an effort of solidarity, the harmonization of protection criteria and cooperation with transit countries” that Afghan migrants might move through. Turkey with whom the EU already has a migrant outsourcing deal, is one such country.
“Europe cannot alone assume the consequences,” Macron said.
Austria, meanwhile, plans to suggest at a meeting of EU interior ministers on Wednesday that deportation centers be set up in countries neighboring Afghanistan.
The arrival of well over a million migrants in 2015, mostly from Syria and Iraq, sparked one of the 27-nation EU’s biggest crises as nations bickered over how best to manage the influx. The infighting continues today and a new wave of migrants from Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate those tensions.
Asylum applications by Afghan nationals climbed by a third since February as it became clear that the United States would pull troops out of Afghanistan. More than 4,648 applications were lodged in May, according to the EU’s asylum office. About half of the applications tend to be successful.
More entries from Afghanistan should be manageable for the EU bloc of some 450 million people. Most Afghans are likely to flee to Iran or Pakistan, or other northern neighbors.
On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top German politicians warned of a possible new wave of refugees and appealed for assistance to help Afghanistan’s neighbors keep people close to their homes.
“This is primarily about helping neighboring countries to which the Afghan refugees may perhaps go,” Merkel told reporters.
The International Organization for Migration warned Tuesday of a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the conflict exacerbates the impact of a major drought and the coronavirus pandemic. It said that nearly 400,000 people in Afghanistan have been displaced so far this year and that over 5 million others depend on aid.
AP journalists Elaine Ganley in Paris and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.