BRUSSELS, Aug 10 (Reuters) – Six EU member states sent a letter to the bloc’s executive warning against stopping deportations of failed Afghan asylum seekers despite major advances by Taliban activists in their country.
The Taliban, who are fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, have made huge gains in their campaign to defeat the government as US-led foreign forces withdraw.[nL1N2PH0LT]
“Stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their homes for the EU,” said Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany in a letter dated August 5 seen by Reuters.
“We therefore urge you and your teams at the Commission to intensify discussions with the Afghan government on how returns to Afghanistan can and will continue in the months to come. “
Many EU member states fear that developments in Afghanistan could trigger a repeat of the European migration crisis of 2015/16, when the chaotic arrival of more than a million people from the Middle East took strained social security and protection systems and fueled political support for far-right groups.
The European Commission said it had received the letter from all six countries and would respond when ready.
Asked whether the European Commission considers Afghanistan a safe country to which asylum seekers can be returned, a spokesperson for the EU executive said it was up to member states to carry this judgement.
“At EU level, there is no list of countries considered safe with regard to asylum requests or returns. It is up to each Member State to assess (…) the country of origin and the situation of the person concerned, ”he said.
The issue is expected to be raised at a crisis meeting of EU home ministers on August 18, held primarily to discuss an increase in illegal border crossings between Belarus and Lithuania, a member state of the ‘EU. read more Poland and Latvia have also experienced an increased flow of migrants from Belarus.
Since 2015, around 570,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in the EU, notes the letter from the six EU countries, 44,000 in 2020 alone, making Afghanistan the second most important country of origin. Last year.
“We fully recognize the sensitive situation in Afghanistan in light of the planned withdrawal of international troops,” the countries said, adding that around 4.6 million Afghans were already displaced, many in the region.
The six countries urged the bloc to seek to provide the best support to the refugees by strengthening cooperation with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi defended the initiative against criticism.
“Just because parts of a country are not safe does not mean that every national of that country is automatically entitled to protection,” he said on Twitter.
A spokeswoman for the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice said that if individuals had the right to asylum, they could get it, but there should not be a catch-all label for a country.
“The situation is very worrying, it is still being studied,” said spokesperson Charlotte Hees.
Additional reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Nick Macfie
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