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France, Switzerland Latest European Countries To Suspend Deportations Of Afghans

A group of Afghans leaves the airport following their deportation from France to Kabul. (file photo)

France and Switzerland have joined other European countries in announcing a suspension of deportations to Afghanistan due to the deteriorating security situation in the country as the Taliban presses its offensive across Afghanistan.

The French Interior Ministry told news agencies on August 12 that the policy has been in place since early July.

"We are watching the situation closely alongside our European partners," AFP quoted the ministry as saying.

Afghans last year accounted for the most asylum requests in France, with nearly 8,900 applications.

Switzerland also announced late on August 11 that the expulsion of rejected asylum seekers was suspended “until further notice due to the changed situation in the country.”

"Preparations for repatriation will only be continued in the case of persons who have committed a criminal offence,” the State Secretariat for Migration tweeted.

Earlier this week, Germany and the Netherlands announced that they would also no longer deport rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, reversing their previous position on the controversial issue.

Officials in the two countries had joined several other EU members as early as last week in saying they should be allowed to continue expulsions of Afghan migrants if their asylum bids fail.

The European Union on August 10 said that it was considering more support for countries neighboring Afghanistan in anticipation of potentially hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

There are growing concerns in Europe of a repeat of the migrant crisis in 2015 when well over 1 million migrants, including many from war-torn Syria, arrived in the EU and sparked ongoing political divisions in the bloc.

In a letter dated August 5 and disclosed only this week, the interior ministers of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands urged the EU’s executive arm to “intensify talks” with the Afghan government after Kabul said it was suspending "nonvoluntary returns" of Afghans fleeing the violence for three months.

“We would like to highlight the urgent need to perform returns, both voluntary and nonvoluntary, to Afghanistan,” the ministers wrote to the European Commission, which confirmed receipt of the letter.

“Stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU.”

The Taliban has captured 10 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in the past week and now controls about two-thirds of the country.

A U.S. defense official cited intelligence as saying this week that Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.

The Taliban’s lightning offensive began in May when U.S.-led international forces began the final stage of a troop withdrawal due to end later this month following a 20-year presence.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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