As Taliban retake the country, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany speak of ‘urgent need to perform voluntary and non-voluntary returns to Afghanistan’
GOVERNMENT ministers from six European countries have called on the EU leadership to continue returning migrants to Afghanistan — even as the religious extremist Taliban group’s forces retake large swathes of the war-torn country.
A leaked letter posted online today revealed that the interior ministers of Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany urged the European Commission last week not to accept a decision by the Afghan Ministry of Refugees & Repatriation to halt forced returns to the country for three months.
The ministers in the August 5 letter say they “fully recognise the sensitive situation in Afghanistan in light of the foreseen withdrawal of international troops” — but that they do not “foresee any cause to stop or suspend returns.”
The ministers go on to say that they “would like to highlight the urgent need to perform returns, both voluntary and non-voluntary, to Afghanistan.
“In view of the expected likelihood that Afghanistan will continue to be a significant source of irregular migration to the EU, we would like to underline the importance of returning those without genuine protection needs.”
The ministers claim that stopping returns “sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU.”
The European Council on Refugees & Exiles (ECRE) was just one of the human rights organisations that branded the letter “shameful” today.
“Seriously? Turmoil and violence in [Afghanistan] escalating alarmingly. Priority for six EU states: returning people and preventing displaced Afghans arriving in Europe,” the ECRE said on social media.
“The vast majority of displaced Afghans will be hosted in neighbouring countries, as is currently the case. A small proportion of displaced Afghans will arrive in Europe.”
According to the United Nations’ UNHCR refugee agency, 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees are settled in Pakistan and about 780,000 more live in Iran.
Natalie Gruber, co-founder of the refugee support organisation Josoor, told The Civil Fleet that sending people back to Afghanistan amounted to a death sentence.
“Words fail to describe the cruelty of insisting on continuing deportations to this devastatingly bleak environment, with the openly described goal of deterring others who are forced to flee for their lives.
“Apart from this approach being inherently inhumane, it also presents yet another desperately naive attempt at a response to one of the main challenges of our time: some people simply cannot continue staying in their home countries anymore.
“As we have seen with the developments around pushbacks recently, European authorities are not even trying to cover their inhuman border regime and punitive deterrence maxim anymore.
“This letter demonstrates once again what we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of keeping people out. Both on our own borders and with our externalisation and deportation practices, we are not only putting innocent people’s lives at risk but also our own democracy and humanity. It is embarrassing, shameful and frightening.”
Dariush Beigui, a German activist who has helped save over 14,000 refugees in the Mediterranean aboard the Iuventa rescue ship —and could face 20 years behind bars in Italy for doing so — told The Civil Fleet he thought the letter was “disgusting, but honest.
“If there is one thing that runs like a blood-red thread through European history, it is this: Europe uber alles — whatever the cost!
“Germany and other European states have been instrumental in destabilising and exploiting Afghanistan.
“It is not surprising that people have fled Afghanistan and still want to flee. A halfway safe life has not been possible there for a long time.
“No crystal ball was needed to predict what has happened in Afghanistan in the last few days. It was to be expected. Today, more than ever, all European countries must stop deporting people to Afghanistan.
“This letter is a letter of shame and another low point for Europe. Politicians are telling people not to think that Europe will help them if they want to flee war and the barbaric Taliban.”
The letter was signed by:
Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer,
Greece’s Migration & Asylum Minister Panagiotus Mitarachi,
The Netherlands’ Migration Minister Ankie Broekers-Knol,
Denmark’s Immigration & Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye,
Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer,
Belgium’s State Secretary for Asylum & Migration Sammy Mahdi
Top pic shows Afghan children in a refugee camp in Pakistan [Pic: Reuters]