Worry over refugee crisis can pave way for common migration policy: EU

Written by Sharangee Dutta | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sep 04, 2021 11:36 PM IST

European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said that after the takeover of Afghanistan by Taliban, Europe is in a “major crisis” and that he wanted to “avoid a reflex” that takes the continent back to 2015 when there was a massive refugee influx in the region following the 2015 Syrian war.

Ever since the evacuation of Afghan citizens commenced after the country fell into the hands of the Taliban, the question of the influx of these refugees and their resettlement have been part of many discourses. Now, European Commissioner Margaritis Schinas has said the situation in Afghanistan and the events associated with it could pave the way for the formation of a common migration policy.

The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) has said that up to 500,000 Afghans could escape by the year-end.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) has said that up to 500,000 Afghans could escape by the year-end.

Speaking to an Austrian daily Wiener Zeitung, Schinas said, “It is true that we are now in a major crisis, but the European Union (EU) did not cause the situation, yet we are once again called upon to be part of a solution.”

He further said that he wanted to “avoid a reflex” that takes Europe back to the crisis year 2015 “before it is even clear how the situation will develop.”

Following the re-emergence of Taliban, several thousands of Afghans have been flown out of their homeland either to neighbouring Asian countries or to the US and Europe. The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) has said that up to 500,000 Afghans could escape by the year-end. Meanwhile, many countries, including Russia, Austria and Greece, among others, have directly or indirectly, dismissed the idea of welcoming Afghan migrants, even as Europe is still recovering from the enormous refugee influx after the 2015 Syrian war.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz reiterated his decision to not take migrants, saying that a potential Afghan wave in Europe must not take place. This comes after his stand against welcoming Afghans because the European nation has taken in a “disproportionately high” number since 2015, when one million people entered Europe from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In the interview, Schinas said that the EU was better prepared this time, with stronger external border protection and financial resources to help Afghanistan’s neighbours, while the EU states’ policies were “increasingly converging.”

Also Read | Don't want Afghan militants arriving under cover of refugees: Putin

“Therefore, I see now as the moment to agree on a common European migration and asylum policy, as we proposed in the EU Commission in September,” he told Zeitung, according to Reuters.

The European Commissioner further said that migration has long foiled the unity among the 27 members of the EU, with strong resistance to a deal among the “populists on the right and left fringes.” However, he added that he did see a window for a solution after the French presidential polls in May 2022 – by when Germany would also have a new ruling dispensation.

The EU, on the other hand, has floated a plan to spend 300 million euros ($355 million) to resettle nearly 30,000 Afghans refugees inside the bloc in an attempt to avoid a migration crisis. According to a diplomatic note – seen by Bloomberg, the European Commission made the proposal to EU ambassadors at an August 26 meeting. Additional funds for the resettling purpose can also be made available, the Commission added according to Bloomberg.

The EU had another meeting on August 31 – regarding the resettlement of Afghans and the situation in Afghanistan. Following the meeting, EU commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, informed on Twitter that she will “convene a high-level Resettlement Forum” in September to “discuss concrete priorities with member states and provide sustainable solutions” to those Afghans who are most vulnerable, such as women and children.”

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