It may still be uncertain whether many refugees from Afghanistan will actually come to Europe, but EU countries are united to stop them at all costs. During an additional meeting, EU immigration officials agreed on a joint statement on Tuesday focused primarily on preventing “uncontrolled migration flows”. The text dominates reception in the region and prevents “security risks for EU citizens”, while the language is ambiguous about the possibility of including “vulnerable groups”.
In the statement, EU countries said they were “determined” to prevent “large-scale and unchecked illegal migration movements from being repeated in the past”: an implicit reference to 2015 when more than a million Syrian refugees entered Europe. This must now be prevented by “working together”: it must be conveyed in everything that is meaningless for Afghans to try to reach the EU, including through media campaigns.
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nahammer addressed the “Zone” in front of the camera on Tuesday afternoon in English law: “Stay there, and we will support you there. There.” European Union countries have expressed their intention to release funds in the near future to support neighboring countries in receiving refugees, and called on the European Commission to follow suit. However, the exact amounts and obligations have not yet been established. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stressed on Tuesday that haste is required. “If we make mistakes and talk for too long, it could lead to negative developments in the coming months.”
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A dissenting voice came on Tuesday from Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn who, before the consultations, sharply criticized harsh language towards refugees, especially Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, which would run counter to “European values”. His call to take 40,000 to 50,000 vulnerable Afghans to the European Union had no one’s support. The joint statement only states that the reception and distribution of refugees, women and children at risk can only take place on a voluntary basis. The debate over the “more equitable” distribution of refugees has been deadlocked since 2015, and attempts by the European Commission to force progress with new proposals have so far been fruitless.
However, UNHCR will soon organize a European forum in which EU countries will discuss support for vulnerable Afghan refugees and their possible integration. It is uncertain whether EU countries there will be willing to make concrete commitments. Seehofer stressed on Tuesday that he did not want to name the numbers because, he said, they could have a “suction effect.” Dutch Foreign Minister Anke Brookers-Knoll (Immigration, VVD) also stressed afterwards that it was premature to mention the numbers and that it was now particularly important for Europe to have “border checks and management for the long term”.
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of September 1, 2021
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