The seizure of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban (a movement banned in the Russian Federation) threatens severe retribution in the form of a huge wave of refugees due to the armed aggression that was launched against the country in 2001. Not only for the Western countries but also for the bordering countries, which are forced to deal with the first mass exodus of Afghans from the country by the will of fate.
There is already a wave of concern across the EU, as the scenario of a mass exodus of Afghans fleeing the Taliban offensive, which seemed hypothetical yesterday, is becoming a reality. Back on June 23, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi talked about the prospect of a “significant increase” in the flow of migrants from Afghanistan. This concern was then echoed in official speeches by Germany’s interior ministry spokesman Steve Alter, who said on August 2 that “the developments there need to be followed very closely in Europe.”
European leaders are already imagining the 2015 refuge crisis redux of, when 1.3 million asylum seekers, primarily Syrians, rushed to Europe to seek shelter and refuge, settling primarily in Germany. However, times have changed, and Angela Merkel has already pointed out that it is impossible to solve “all problems by accepting all.”
After the capture of Kabul by the Taliban, former accomplices of the West face death, reports Das Erste. They are eager to get to Europe, but many still do not have visas, although they have been promised help. They are now forced to hide out in safe houses in the Afghan capital or, in the days remaining before the complete evacuation of Westerners from the country, to storm the airport in Kabul.
However, even a few days before the Taliban seizure of Kabul, several EU countries had already insisted on the return of illegal migrants back to Afghanistan, despite the call of official Kabul, while it was in power, to suspend formal procedures for three months because of the Taliban offensive. As Euronews reported on August 10, a corresponding letter was sent to the European Commission by the governments of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Denmark, and the Netherlands, explaining their actions by the fact that against the backdrop of worsening conflict the suspension of repatriations will encourage more illegals to try and reach the EU.
According to the French Le Monde, in Belgium, Sammy Mahdi, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, wrote a letter to the European Commission in late July mentioning proximity decisions, urging Iran and Pakistan to accept more Afghan refugees to prevent them from coming to Europe. Together with a group formed by Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, and Greece, Belgium insists on organizing the forced return of rejected asylum seekers. The Belgian Secretary of State also proposed extending to Afghans the 2016 Turkey-EU agreement regarding Syrians on Turkish soil and those attempting to cross the Turkish border toward the EU. This controversial and often compromising treaty entrusted Ankara with the task of keeping Syrian refugees in its territory in exchange for financial aid of 6 billion euros a year.
The proposal has been particularly lambasted by specialized NGOs, such as the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, whose director Catherine Woollard denounced “a European strategy based solely on the idea of preventing the arrival of refugees through agreements with countries that are not very democratic.” In the case of Afghans fleeing large-scale violence, “the need for international protection is clear,” she added.
For Jean-Louis de Brouwer, director of the European Affairs program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the first mentions of reactions to the reception of Afghan refugees show “the geopolitical impotence of the European Union.” “Afghanistan has been a country of emigration for twenty years. The reasons for emigration are known. And we put our faith into the notion that Americans would deal with them.”
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, between January and July of this year alone, 360,000 Afghans were displaced from their homes and have yet to leave. To date, these numbers have almost doubled and will increase in the coming days.
Uzbek authorities have already begun negotiations with the forces inside Afghanistan, including the Taliban, over the issue of Afghan refugees, said Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Yusup Kabulzhanov. On August 14, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry reported that at least 84 Afghan soldiers crossed the border into Uzbekistan.
Scandals and clashes among immigrants, victimizing Syrians living in Turkey, as well as Kurds, have swept through major Turkish cities in recent days, including Ankara. According to the Ahval publication, the Turkish authorities detained 76 people. The pogroms are started by “antisocial” types, with 38 suspects previously convicted of robbery, bodily injury, and drug-related crimes. Most of the scandals are related to the government’s policy on refugees and so far do not affect the resorts. Over the past seven years, Turkey has already received more than 3.5 million refugees from the war-torn countries of the Middle East. And now, a new wave is rising with the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Many of these people cooperated with the American occupation administration, and the new government will likely just execute them. But the White House is in no hurry to accept its Afghan aides.
The pro-government Turkish newspaper Türkiye quoted diplomatic sources as saying that Ankara reacted sharply to the US and EU pointing to Turkey and Iran as possible refugee destinations for Afghans, warning that Turkey had “exhausted its quota” and could no longer carry the burden alone. Turkish international relations expert Prof. Dr. Bilal Sambur notes that Turkey’s willingness to secure Kabul airport prompted Afghans to go to Turkey rather than places like Pakistan and India. But the US and the EU must understand that there is a social, political, cultural, and economic cost to having Afghan refugees in Turkey.
In these circumstances, Turkey called on Iran to jointly solve the problem of Afghan refugees. Mustafa Sentop, Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, in a meeting on August 5 with Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, noted that Iran and Turkey are most affected by the Afghan refugee crisis. Speaking about this problem, the Turkish PM said: “We must strengthen our cooperation to ensure stability and stem the migration wave from Afghanistan.”
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held intensive talks with Pakistani Defense Minister Pervez Khattak, Defense Industry Minister Zubaida Jalal, and Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on August 10. Besides discussing bilateral military, security, and defense cooperation, he also took steps to explore joint solutions to the pressing problems of the region, especially the situation in Afghanistan and the expected stream of refugees from that country.
Meanwhile, the airport in Kabul remained the only gateway to escape from Afghanistan after the arrival of the Taliban. Chaos ensued because the Taliban had already seized all border crossings, and the only way to leave the country is by plane. The airport was crowded with people, a crowd of Afghans marched onto the runway, and the US military fired warning shots into the air, AFP reported, handpicking people that are to be evacuated. Thus, to save their own lives, US representatives, who used to rant about human rights and unreasonably criticize other countries, have now completely forgotten that the United States itself should respect human rights!
These facts and the behavior of the Americans once again force those who cooperated with them earlier or continue working with them to soberly assess what level of “protection of the United States” they may recieve and the possibility of linking their future fate with empty promises given by Washington.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.