Six countries urge EU to continue Afghan deportations

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands have written to the European Commission

Six EU countries have called on the European Commission to continue deporting Afghan migrants despite an increasing Taliban advance, officials said on Tuesday.

The governments of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands wrote to the EU's executive arm saying they should be allowed to return Afghan migrants if their asylum bids fail.

Afghanistan urged the EU in July to stop forced deportation of its migrants for three months as security forces battle the Taliban before the full US military withdrawal from the country on August 31.

Their letter asked the commission "to engage in an intensified dialogue with Afghan partners on all pressing migration issues, including swift and effective return co-operation".

"Furthermore, stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU," said the letter, sent on August 5, which was seen by AFP.

Belgian Migration Minister Sammy Mahdi wrote on Twitter: "Just because regions of a country are dangerous doesn't mean that every person from that country has the right to protection."

The Dutch Justice Ministry also confirmed that it had asked Brussels not to suspend forced deportations, while saying "developments in Afghanistan were being followed closely".

Danish Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said he was "happy" that the six countries agreed on the issue.

"It's important for the government that failed asylum seekers should be sent to their own country," Mr Tesfaye said.

But a senior EU official said that because the Afghan authorities had notified Brussels that Kabul was suspending its forced return operations for three months, there was little chance any would go ahead.

"And clearly, given the current situation, I do not expect forced return operations to actually take place," the official said.

The official said that so far this year, 1,200 people had been returned to Afghanistan from the EU, with 1,000 of them "voluntary" and 200 "forced".

The Taliban are in control of seven Afghan provincial capitals after a blitz across the north of the country forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

The US has all but left the battlefield before its longest war finishes at the end of the month. It began with the 2001 invasion to topple the Taliban after the September 11 attacks.

After Kabul's appeal to EU countries on July 11, Sweden and Finland stopped forced deportations to Afghanistan.

Afghans in 2020 made up 10.6 per cent of asylum seekers in the EU, or just over 44,000 of about 416,000 requests, the second largest number behind Syrians on 15.2 per cent, EU statistics show.

Updated: August 10th 2021, 8:03 PM