Kabul/Berlin/Istanbul (dpa) – With the fall of Kabul, the warning has been heard again, especially from politicians in the Union. “2015 must not be repeated,” demanded CDU Vice-President Thomas Strobl, who is also Baden-Württemberg’s interior minister.
People who have now fled Afghanistan should find shelter in neighboring countries, which should receive international support. Similar warnings were issued by the CDU’s Deputy and Federal Minister of Agriculture, Julia Klöckner, and candidate Union Chancellor and Prime Minister of NRW, Armin Laschet (CDU), who argued for the admission of refugees in limited numbers.
But is it really to be expected that after the triumphant advance of the Taliban, people will return on a similar scale as in 2015 and 2016? At that time, more than 1.1 million asylum seekers reached Germany, many of them from Syria, a country where there is a civil war. Many questions are still open.
How many people are displaced in Afghanistan?
The number of internally displaced persons increased dramatically in early May, ie the beginning of the withdrawal of international troops and several Taliban offensives. First people had fled from the districts to the provincial capitals, when fighting started in the cities, then many continued on to the capital Kabul. According to the UN, 390,000 Afghans had left their towns and cities due to fighting by early August.
According to estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in early August, about 30,000 people were leaving the country every week at that time.
It is unclear how the refugee movements will develop after the actual takeover by the Taliban. On Sunday, a UN report said more displaced people in Kabul indicated they would return to their villages in the north of the country.
Can people find shelter in neighboring countries?
The willingness to receive refugees from Afghanistan in the region is not particularly great. Tajikistan wants to take in refugees in any case and is setting up a camp for that purpose. At the beginning of last month, more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers took refuge in the Central Asian state. But like Uzbekistan, it has also strengthened its border security.
Pakistan, where some 1.4 million Afghans already live as registered refugees according to the UNHCR, is increasingly isolating itself. The border fence that Pakistan erected between the two countries is practically complete. The interior minister had announced that refugee camps would be set up on the Afghan side of the border.
On Tuesday, he said that regardless of the current volatile situation in Afghanistan, there was no refugee crisis or “burden” to deal with.
Iran has also been home to hundreds of thousands of Afghans for decades. According to experts, the number of unreported cases is significantly higher. The country is struggling with the corona pandemic and an economic crisis. It is therefore unlikely that the government will allow many Afghans into the country. It is unclear how Iran will avoid illegal border crossings by refugees without the use of force. Due to the appalling conditions in Iran, many Afghans are trying to find their way to Turkey, which borders Iran to the east.
What could Germany or the EU do?
If the European Union wants to avoid another flight in their direction and the people there need to find a perspective, talks with Iran and Pakistan are necessary, says migration researcher Steffen Angenendt of the Science and Politics Foundation. “Iran and Pakistan’s demands for humanitarian aid are also likely to increase – especially as the countries have seen what is possible with Turkey as an example.” Turkey receives money from the EU to receive Syrian refugees.
Angenendt also calls for help for the people displaced in Afghanistan. In addition, the federal government should campaign for an international initiative for the humanitarian admission of those Afghans who are particularly threatened by human rights violations, especially women. These are manageable figures, so Angenendt. “We have the capacity for that in Germany.”
What is the situation in Turkey?
Turkey has been both a destination and transit country for Afghans for years. In addition to the 3.6 million Syrians, an estimated half a million Afghans live in the country. Erdogan now speaks of a new “wave of migrants” from Afghans via Iran. He won’t tolerate that. “Getting in and out is completely prevented,” he recently emphasized. To do this, the country is building a wall on its eastern border with Iran.
Despite the lockdown, local observers estimate that at least a few hundred Afghans from Iran cross the border every day. The locals also earn money from smuggling in the mountainous region, which is difficult to control.
Can the migrants then not stay in Turkey? After all, the country receives money from the EU.
Syrians in Turkey are temporarily protected. Ankara receives financial support for them under the so-called refugee pact. The EU wants to pay the country another three billion euros, this time the money could also go to projects for Afghans. In practice, however, support can be difficult.
Many Afghans are not even registered, says human rights lawyer Mahmut Kacan, who champions the rights of migrants in the border province of Van. Afghans at particular risk were able to apply for conditional protection status in Turkey for resettlement in a third country, but many feared deportation and were living illegally. Turkey is therefore often just a transit country and the actual destination is Europe, says Kacan. However, months or even years may pass before the onward journey.
“Turkey plays the key role in answering the question of whether more Afghans will soon enter the European Union or Germany,” Angenendt said. “Their behavior is the great unknown.” The EU should therefore continue talks with the country about the reception of refugees, but also with Iran and Pakistan.
Last year, Erdogan declared the border with Greece temporarily open to migrants, and thousands made their way to Europe. And given the weakening economy, the mood is currently changing. Last week, a mob swept the streets of the capital Ankara, throwing rocks at Syrian homes and looting shops.
What about onward travel to the EU and Germany?
Greece, Turkey’s eastern neighbor and a country on the EU’s western external border, wants to stop potential Afghan migrants. Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said this on Tuesday in view of the dramatic developments in Afghanistan. “We don’t want our country to become the gateway to the EU for people who want to break into Europe,” Mitarakis told Greek state television (ERT). Greece monitors sea and land borders with numerous patrols and prevents migrants from crossing to the Greek islands.
Even those who reach Greece are having a harder time than they were a few years ago. Hungary has erected a metal fence on the border with Serbia. Police in EU countries Hungary, Bulgaria or Croatia will take people out of the country if they are caught.
More than 12,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in July, according to figures from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, almost 19 percent more than in the previous month. The largest group of first-time applicants for asylum are Syrians (4,759 people), followed by Afghans (2,353).