Where should Afghanistan's refugees go?

The row over which countries should take in refugees from Afghanistan is in full swing. So far the EU member states have been unable to agree on a joint approach, but there is a consensus on sending money to the country's neighbouring states to help finance the cost of them taking in fleeing Afghans - a solution that does not convince commentators.

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Népszava (HU) /

Deplorable conditions

Agreements between the EU and Afghanistan's neighbouring countries won't help the Afghans who have fled, stresses Népszava:

“The EU's strategy now is to offer help to refugees in Afghanistan's neighbouring countries. In return, the EU wants to provide aid to these countries. This means that it would conclude agreements with them similar to the one it reached with Turkey in 2016. What is clear is that in Pakistan or Iran, Afghans can only expect deplorable conditions, no matter what deals are reached. It seems that history is repeating itself in these countries.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Moral duty not even discussed

Social worker Coraline Caliman doesn't mince her words in Le Soir:

“Ever since the Taliban captured Kabul on 15 August Afghanistan has been in the headlines. And what headlines! They focus mainly on our concerns and our interests - and not on solidarity with the needy Afghan people. Most of the mass media report first on the cost of the intervention of foreign troops ('all this just for that...'). ... Next they worry about the image of the West, then the 'threat' of a hypothetical wave of immigration into Europe. Welcoming the Other should not be conditional, it should simply be universal. In other words, the moral duty to show hospitality should not even be discussed.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

An Afghan regiment in the UK

Creative ideas are needed for the successful integration of refugees from Afghanistan, says The Daily Telegraph:

“Other countries run so-called 'welcoming packages' for newcomers which the Government would be wise to consider here. They include free language tuition and classes in civic engagement. ... One idea that we reported yesterday is to raise a regiment of the British Army from the hundreds of Afghan special forces commandos who were evacuated. They were trained by the British and served alongside our troops in Afghanistan, acquitting themselves bravely and well by all accounts. Some Conservative MPs and former Army officers have suggested they could be a stand-alone non-British unit like the Gurkhas.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

This time cheques alone won't be enough

Afghanistan's neighbour states will resist taking in the country's refugees, the Tages-Anzeiger predicts:

“Iran, one of the routes for refugees on their path to Turkey and Europe? The Islamic Republic will seal itself off. ... The authoritarian leaders of the Muslim states of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan - and with them their political godfather Moscow - will also say no. ... As far as the Afghan refugee issue is concerned, the US and the EU will have to come up with more than just shutting their doors and waving their chequebooks. They will have to talk to Moscow and Ankara. But the solutions offered by these governments won't be to Europe's liking.”

Večer (SI) /

Europe is collateral damage

For Večer it's clear who will have to clean up the mess left by the mission in Afghanistan:

“In military terms, the European Union is what's known as collateral damage. Refugees who don't want to live under the dictatorship of strict Sharia law can't swim across the ocean. So they will flee across their national borders, only not eastwards but westwards. That means into the EU. The same Europe that experienced the force of migrant flows in 2015 and 2016, and even then was divided into countries that showed compassion and those that were selfish.”

Lifo (GR) /

Athens can't rely on help from Berlin

Greece is again being left in the lurch, Lifo fears:

“Despite the urgency of the situation, the refugees in Afghanistan are not a priority for the Germans at the moment. ... What is clear is that the Germans don't want waves of refugees to disrupt their election campaign. Merkel's CDU in particular does not want this. After all, Germany has closed its borders and the Balkan route is also sealed. That means that if Erdoğan opens the borders again, only Greece will come under pressure. The fact is, however, that here we are dealing with a huge humanitarian crisis and it would be immoral for the international community to leave the endangered Afghans to their fate. And of course it would be immoral for the European Union to leave Greece alone with a global problem whose solution is far beyond its own powers.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Shame on all of us

In Gazeta Wyborcza, historian Maciej Janowski criticises the Polish government's unwillingness to help refugees from Afghanistan:

“When our silly political quarrels have ended many years from now, Angela Merkel's 2015 decision to take in refugees will be seen as her greatest achievement; the inaction of other European politicians will be their shame. And the fact that we can't force our politicians to act will be my shame. And that of all of us who are sitting comfortably in our armchairs staring at our screens.”

Evrensel (TR) /

Hyprocritical politicians

In view of the inaction, the German government's worried statements seem hypocritical, Evrensel finds:

“Only after it became clear that Kabul would fall did Interior Minister Horst Seehofer feel compelled to make a U-turn and declare that deportations of Afghan asylum seekers would be temporarily suspended. Now that the current situation has emerged, all the statements about Afghanistan being a humanitarian tragedy and how we must offer help are pure hypocrisy. In other EU states, the situation is not much different.”

Duma (BG) /

The fuse of right-wing populism will be reignited

Europe's right-wing populist parties will benefit from the situation in Afghanistan, says Duma:

“The words of EU Parliament President David Sassoli that Europe has a duty to take in Afghans could be the spark that reignites the fuse of right-wing populism. There will be talk once more about migrants profiting from welfare, about Middle Eastern men being a threat to European women, who will soon all have to walk around wearing veils. Most people fall for this easily. A few fake news stories are enough to send those already fearful of Covid-19 running into the arms of their 'saviours', i.e. the nationalists.”

Libertatea (RO) /

The fight for survival continues

Journalist Adelin Petrișor describes in Libertatea how the majority of Afghans are now having to figure out their own survival strategy. He was in the country on and off from 2002 to 2018:

“I recall how an old man in Lugar responded in 2010 when I asked him what he thought of the Nato military. The man, with a long white beard and cold blue eyes, stared at me and said: 'One of my sons is a translator for the Americans, the other is fighting for the Taliban. You leave, we stay here and have to ensure our survival.' Yes, very likely most Afghans will not hang on to the sides of military planes, but try to jump into the boat of the current rulers instead. Some will succeed, others will not...”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

EU has immediately given in

Driven by the fear of a wave of refugees, the EU is even willing to negotiate with the Taliban, Il Manifesto chides:

“Canada has announced it will take in 20,000 refugees. And even Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia have declared their willingness to take in a thousand refugees, albeit only temporarily. The European Union, meanwhile, is preparing to negotiate with the Taliban without even waiting to see whether it keeps the promises it has been making in the last few hours not to take revenge. And at the same time, it is working to ensure that those fleeing Afghanistan are taken in by the neighbouring countries.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

On hold in the Western Balkans

Jutarnji list analyses the situation:

“The EU will have to take in refugees from Afghanistan. It will also have to help other countries to which people will flee from Afghanistan. The Americans will have an easier time managing this. They will only allow those people into their country who pass strict security checks that will take at least a year to complete. They have already found 'parking spaces' for those waiting for an entry permit: Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia so far. ... What has happened in Afghanistan is a fiasco for the West, and everything that follows is just a desperate attempt to save face.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Urgent need to review asylum practices

Avvenire calls for a quick revision of asylum procedures for Afghans:

“We should reflect upon whether it is necessary to ease the situation of Afghans already on our continent in all European countries. A few suggestions: first, all deportations that have already been ordered should be suspended. Second, the criterion of inadmissibility [of asylum applications] which stems from the principle that applies in Greece to Afghan nationals according to which Turkey is a safe third country must be abolished. There are now thousands of Afghans in the camps, on the islands and in the cities of Greece whose applications cannot even be submitted according to this principle. Thirdly, rejected applications must be reconsidered in view of the serious situation in Afghanistan.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Athens should take action

Kathimerini sees good reason for the Greek government to actively seek solutions to the imminent wave of migration:

“Athens should play a leading role in the context of Brussels’ reaction, at a point in time where the EU seems rather surprised and unprepared. Greece also has every reason to encourage offering substantial albeit targeted support to neighboring Turkey for the immediate and effective response to a possible wave of refugees, part of which will inevitably pass into Greek territory. Athens' positive stance on a major issue that will be of great concern to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the immediate future can only positively affect bilateral relations.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Only Women and Children!

In a guest commentary for Die Presse, feminist Alice Schwarzer has concrete ideas about who should now be taken in by Western countries:

“Afghan terrorists will be with us very soon. They will infiltrate the expected wave of refugees in a more targeted way than ever before. All the more reason to take in only women and children from Afghanistan now! ... This might not save the rural wife, who is already no longer permitted to leave the house without a male escort. But it could benefit the many women who have dared to go public in the cities. The teachers, journalists, politicians and women's rights activists; in short, all those who, encouraged by the West, have emancipated themselves. They must be offered a way to come to us - and perhaps even to return one day.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

When all hope is lost

Corriere della Sera feels reminded of those who threw themselves out of the burning Twin Towers on 9/11:

“It defies the most basic rule enshrined in our genetic code: to preserve life at all costs. ... And yet we have reached a point that lies beyond the confines of our genetics, a point at which all reasoning and calculations of probability lose their value. The ghosts of the present that overwhelm us have the upper hand. And so you jump out of a skyscraper, knowing that no angel will come to catch you as you plummet. Or you cling to the outside of a plane as it takes off even with the certainty that your hands will not be able to withstand the rush of air that will force you to let go and fall like a stone that will shatter on the ground.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

No escape for women

Hürriyet draws attention to the fact that there are very few women in the images from Kabul airport and among the Afghans who have fled to other countries:

“Afghanistan is a closed society under the present circumstances. ... Women don't simply go out onto the streets. There is no social atmosphere that would allow women to set out as refugees or enter the airport's chaos. Afghanistan is not like Syria in this respect. The situation of women is therefore very tragic. They are in a dungeon from which they cannot even attempt to escape.”

Ethnos (GR) /

Be better prepared than with Syria

Europe must now plan how to deal with a new movement of refugees, Ethnos warns:

“There will undoubtedly be a large influx of refugees from Afghanistan. Especially if the situation develops into a civil war, some observers say the inflow could rival that of Syria. The first countries to be affected will be Iran and Turkey. If the wave of refugees continues to grow, Europe, including Greece, will also be affected. ... This humanitarian problem must be addressed sensitively and methodically. The wall built by Turkey on the border with Iran is not enough to confront the issue. The European Union must not allow itself to be taken by surprise, as it was with Syria.”

Birgün (TR) /

Erdoğan calling the shots again

Birgün fears that Turkey's President Erdoğan could once again use the emerging wave of refugees as leverage:

“Pakistan, India and Iran and then also Turkey will be affected. Even if the US and its allies organise stays in the US, Canada and the UK for Afghans who worked for them and their families, one must also reckon with refugee flows to Turkey during a transitional phase. Erdoğan may also try to keep the refugees on the table as a trump card for negotiations with Washington.”