Border deadlock over Afghan migrants highlights EU fears of further influx

BRUSSELS – An impasse that trapped Afghan asylum seekers on the Belarus-Poland border is a shining example of the European Union’s migra...


BRUSSELS – An impasse that trapped Afghan asylum seekers on the Belarus-Poland border is a shining example of the European Union’s migration dilemma, particularly acute now with the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

As EU member states worry about a new flow of migrants and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, they accuse non-member Belarus of using migrants as a weapon to destabilize the bloc and fear that Turkey will do the same, as it has done before.

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan less than two weeks ago shocked Europe, which is still trying to absorb more than a million asylum seekers and migrants who arrived in 2015, many of them are driven by the horrors of war zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. European leaders have made it clear that this time around they intend to enforce Europe’s border controls and avoid yet another migration crisis and the political backlash that could ensue.

Some 37 Afghan migrants, who left their country before the Taliban takeover earlier this month, have been stranded between Belarus and Poland’s borders for two weeks with no easy access to food, water or facilities. bathroom. Poland will not let them in and Belarus, which initially granted them visas, will not let them return from the border.

Poland is a member of the Schengen area – the passport-free zone which includes 26 countries – so the Polish border with Belarus is effectively the border of the European Union.

The issue has become politicized in Poland, with the ruling Law and Justice party losing its majority in parliament, announcing its harshness on migrants. The government sent troops to the area while building various border barriers.

Various opposition politicians in Poland, some of whom have visited the migrants, have criticized the inhumanity of the government’s position while trying to avoid being seen as favorable to an open border policy.

But for Ilva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, the problem is what she sees as the militarization of innocent migrants by the President of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko.

“This area between the borders of Poland and Belarus is not a migration problem, but is part of Lukashenko’s aggression against Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, with the aim of destabilizing the EU” , she said in an interview.

“Lukashenko uses human beings in a terrible way,” she added. After giving them visas in Belarus and bringing them to the border, Belarus will not let them go again, she said.

Mr Lukashenko did the same at the borders of Lithuania and Latvia, apparently to retaliate against the European Union for its increasingly severe sanctions against him and his government for fraudulent elections and a fierce crackdown on the opposition.

This crackdown has gone as far as the state’s hijacking of a civilian theft between Greece and Lithuania to capture a young dissident, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.

“We have a person in a neighboring country who is getting worse and worse, refusing free and fair elections, using violence, forcing an airliner between two member states and now using innocent people from third countries,” said Ms. Johansson.

Yet, she said, “the situation is not sustainable, and at the end of the day, they are human beings.”

Belarus has denied using migrants as a weapon against the European Union.

After visiting the border on Tuesday, Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish Prime Minister, said that “this is an effort to create a pan-European migration crisis on the part of the regime of Alexandr Lukashenko”.

On the same day, Belarus accused Poland, as a member of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, of deliberately provoking flows of migrants from there, according to the state-run Belta news agency. He blamed the breakdown of border cooperation on the European Union.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called on Poland to respect its international obligations.

“Although we recognize the challenges posed by recent arrivals in Poland, we call on the Polish authorities to provide access to the territory, immediate medical assistance, legal advice and psychosocial support to these people,” the agency said.

Separately, the European court of human rights, which is independent from the European Union, called on the Polish and Latvian governments to intervene to help migrants at the Belarusian border. There is another group of around 40 migrants, mostly Iraqis, who are also stranded at the border between Belarus and Latvia.

The court was responding to a request from Polish charities, including the Ocalenie Foundation, which said on Wednesday that 12 of the Afghan migrants were seriously ill and 25 others were ill.

The main concern of the European Union is to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis, which divided the bloc and strengthened far-right politicians across Europe.

European leaders like Charles Michel, President of the European Council, have pledged to protect borders.

“We are determined to keep migration flows under control and EU borders protected,” he said after an emergency Group of 7 meeting on Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Ms Johansson said that “we have learned the lesson of 2015 so that we do not see a new migration crisis in the European Union”. Europe cannot wait for Afghan refugees to strike at the borders, she added, confirming her statements this week for Euronews.

This means providing money and aid to the transit countries neighboring Afghanistan, just as the European Union is already doing for Turkey to help pay for hosting more than 4 million migrants and asylum seekers.

The European Union has also accused Turkey of using migrants in the spring of 2020, sending them to Greece in an attempt to pressure the European Union to keep its promises of visa-free travel to the bloc and subsidies.

In response, Greece has now built a 25-mile border wall with Turkey, completed just days ago, and has been accused of illegal push-backs of refugee boats while continuing to blame Turkey for not having fully patrolled its seas and prevent migrants from trying to reach Greece.

While some EU countries have promised to take in Afghan refugees, others say they will not. Ms Johansson said she expects the European Union and the United States to increase their resettlement commitments for Afghans, as Canada and Britain have already done.

Ms Johansson is due to travel to Washington on Friday to discuss migration and resettlement with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, building on the work in July. resettlement forum involving the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Nations. The intention is to work together to provide safe passage and resettlement for refugees, more crucial than ever now, she said.

“The immediate need is to increase the number of Afghans, as Afghans inside and outside the country need international protection,” she said. “I have no illusions about the Taliban. I know what they are capable of, and we need to discuss how we can support all these internally displaced Afghans, the vast majority of whom are women and children, and how we can support neighboring countries who are already hosting a large number of Afghans. ”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Border deadlock over Afghan migrants highlights EU fears of further influx
Border deadlock over Afghan migrants highlights EU fears of further influx
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