The new border wall that divides Turkey and Iran appears like a white snake running through barren hills from the top. It only covers about a third of the border’s 540-kilometer (335 mile) length, so there are plenty of places for migrants to cross in the dark.
The traffic on this important migration route between central Asia and Europe has been relatively stable in comparison to previous years. Turkey and Europe fear that the Taliban could return to Afghanistan, but it is not too late.
European leaders are desperate to prevent another flood of migrants and refugees from Afghanistan, as they have been haunted by the 2015 migration crisis that was fueled by the Syrian conflict. The message to Afghans who are considering fleeing to Europe, except for those who assisted Western forces during the country’s two-decade-long war, is this: Go to neighboring countries if you have to leave. But don’t go here.
Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer stated this week that it must be their goal to keep the majority in the region. This is the same sentiment shared by many European leaders.
Officials from the European Union told a meeting this week of interior ministers that the most important lesson was 2015’s failure to abandon Afghans to their fate. They also stated that they would not leave them to themselves if they don’t receive urgent humanitarian assistance. According to a confidential German diplomatic memo, The Associated Press.
Austria was one of the EU’s most ardent migration opponents. It suggested that “deportation centres” be established in Afghanistan to allow EU countries to deport Afghans denied asylum, even if they are unable to return home.
Europe is now more worried about a possible refugee crisis after the desperate scenes of people holding onto aircraft as they take off from Kabul’s Airport. The U.S., NATO allies and other countries are trying to evacuate thousands of Afghans. They fear that the Taliban will punish them for working with Western forces. Other Afghans will not be given the same treatment.
Even Germany, which has accepted more Syrians since 2015 than any other Western country, is sending a different message today.
Many German politicians, including Armin Lschet, the candidate of the Union bloc’s center-right to succeed Angela Merkel, warned last week that there must not be another 2015 migration crisis.
Emmanuel Macron, French President, stressed that Europe cannot bear the consequences of Afghanistan’s situation and suggested that Europe “must anticipate and protect itself against significant irregular migratory flows.”
Britain, which departed the EU in 2020 said that it would accept 5,000 Afghan refugees in this year’s refugee crisis and then resettle 20,000 Afghans over the next few years.
Other than that, European countries have not made any concrete offers. They are focusing their efforts on Afghans in their country, as well as neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan.
Europe should not wait for people to cross our external borders, said Ylva Johanson, EU Home Affairs Commissioner.
Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, acknowledged Europe’s challenges when he visited Madrid to visit Spain’s emergency center for Afghan refugees.
“Partnerships will be at heart of our discussions in the European Union.” He stated that strategies must be adopted to ensure that migration can occur in an orderly, consistent manner. “We must find the balance between the dignity and the ability to defend the interests of the European Union.”
The Greek islands that face the Turkish coast are the European entry point for thousands of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans six years ago. But, Greece has now made it clear that it does not want to go back to that time.
Notis Mitarachi, the Migration Minister, stated that Greece will not accept being the “gateway to irregular flows into Europe” and that Turkey is a safe haven for Afghans.
Recep Tayyip Turkey’s President sees red from such talk. He has threatened to send them to Europe, threatening to kill 3.6 million Syrians in his country and hundreds of thousands of Afghans.
Erdogan said in a speech on Thursday that Turkey has no obligation, responsibility or duty to act as Europe’s refugee storage facility.
In a rare telephone call, the Turkish President spoke to Kyriakos Mitsotakis about Afghanistan’s migration. He also discussed the issue with Iran.
After the 2015 crisis, attitudes toward migrants in Europe have become more hostile to one another, which has fueled the rise of far right parties like Alternative for Germany, the largest opposition party in parliament, ahead of Germany’s next parliamentary election.
Turkey is increasingly treating migrants from Syria and Afghanistan as if they were Muslim brethren. This is despite the fact that Turkey has been struggling with rising unemployment and inflation.
Erdogan acknowledged the “unease” of the public about migration and noted that his government had strengthened the Iranian border east with police, gendarmerie and the new wall. This wall has been in construction since 2017.
AP journalists were near the Turkish border to Iran when they encountered dozens upon dozens of Afghans, most of them young men but also women and children. They were smuggled over the border in small groups at night to flee violence and poverty by the Taliban.
Hassan Khan, a young man, said that Afghanistan’s situation was “extreme”. “The Taliban took over Afghanistan.” We were forced to go here because there is no work in Afghanistan.
According to observers, there is no evidence of mass movement at the border. Turkish authorities claim they have intercepted 35,000 Afghans illegally entering the country this year. This compares to over 50,000 in 2020 and more than 200k in 2019.
UNCHR estimates that 90% (2.6 million) of Afghan refugees living outside Afghanistan are in Pakistan and Iran. These countries also house large numbers of Afghans fleeing poverty in search of better economic opportunities.
According to EU statistics, 630,000 Afghans applied for asylum in EU countries over the past ten years. The highest number was in Germany, Hungary and Greece.
Jan Egeland (secretary-general of Norwegian Refugee Council) stated that it is not an obvious conclusion that the Taliban’s takeover will lead to a new refugee crisis.
He told AP that he would caution against a self-fulfilling prophecy. Afghans are “scared and bewildered, but also hopeful that a long-running war will end, and perhaps they can avoid being caught in the crossfire.”
He stated that much depended on the Taliban’s willingness to allow development and humanitarian work continue.
Egeland stated, “If there is a collapse in public services, and if there is a major food shortage, then there will be a mass movement.”