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Slovenia, Holding Rotating Presidency, Says EU Won't Accept Wave Of Afghan Migrants


Afghans try to get into the airport in Kabul on August 16, in an attempt to escape Taliban rule.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said the EU will not allow a surge of Afghan migrants, as the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has stoked fears of a repeat of Europe's 2015 migration crisis, when more than 1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East arrived in the bloc.

"The EU will not open any European 'humanitarian' or migration corridors for Afghanistan. We will not allow the strategic mistake from 2015 to be repeated," Jansa wrote on Twitter on August 22.

The EU will only accept individuals who helped the NATO mission in Afghanistan and will otherwise bolster the bloc's external border, Jansa said.

Slovenia currently holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, which gives the small nation an important role in setting the EU agenda and resolving differences between the 27 member states.

A spokesperson for the Slovenian EU presidency said on August 23 that it called a special meeting this week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

The meeting aims to discuss "the EU response to current developments in Afghanistan also from the home affairs aspects, including possible impact on migration, migration cooperation, and assistance with key neighboring countries, and security related issues," a spokesperson said.

The meeting is to be held at the ambassadorial level on August 26, followed later by a meeting of justice and interior ministers.

As thousands of Afghans rush to Kabul airport hoping to exit the country, the Taliban is urging people to stay and has offered a generally amnesty.

While fear of harsh Shari'a law and retaliation prompts some Afghans to flee, grinding poverty, drought, and a deteriorating economy threaten to potentially motivate a flood of migrants seeking a better life in Europe or elsewhere.

The Taliban has closed key border points, but the EU is bracing for increased migratory pressure in the longer run stemming from Afghanistan.

Several EU countries are calling for refugees to be guaranteed safety in countries neighboring Afghanistan before the EU considers taking in migrants, except for those that worked with international forces and some at-risk individuals.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will step down after a September 26 federal election, last week called for coordinated, "controlled" EU action on migration.

Merkel told reporters in Berlin on August 17 that people fleeing Afghanistan should be helped in neighboring countries in coordination with the UN refugee agency.

"Then we can think about, as a second step, whether especially affected people can be brought to Europe in a controlled way," she said, noting that refugee issues have deeply divided the 27-member bloc in recent years.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on August 22 said his country was not willing to take in any Afghans.

"I am not of the opinion that we should take in more people in Austria, but quite the opposite," Kurz said in an interview with the television channel PULS 4.

With more than 40,000 Afghans already living in Austria, Kurz said they represent a "particularly difficult integration" problem.

"Taking in people who then cannot be integrated is a huge problem for us as a country," Kurz said.

Greece and non-EU member Turkey are also concerned about a new migration wave to Europe and have begun to coordinate a response.

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and 300,000 Afghans, in addition to migrants and refugees from other parts of the world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on August 19 that Turkey had no responsibility to be "Europe's refugee warehouse."

Greece became a front-line state during the European migration crisis, although arrivals from Turkey have dropped since 2016, when the EU reached a deal with Ankara to stem the flow in exchange for billions of dollars of financial support.

Turkey and Greece have recently hardened their borders. Turkey is erecting walls and ditches along the border with Iran as well as electronic monitoring systems amid concern about Afghan refugees.

Greece said on August 20 it had completed a 40-kilometer fence on its border with Turkey and a new surveillance system to stop possible asylum seekers.

According to the UN, more than 5 million Afghans have already been displaced outside the country since the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent waves of violence. Ninety percent of them live in Iran or Pakistan.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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