The European Union next week will issue an ultimatum to Afghanistan to accept 80,000 deportees or lose economic assistance, according to a leaked memo reported by the Guardian newspaper.
The extortion attempt is couched in Orwellian double-speak – EU technocrats say they merely want to make aid “migration sensitive” – but the leaked memo makes it clear that the regional bloc intends to threaten the war-torn country with a reduction in aid when international donors and the Afghan government convene in Brussels next week.
“This is putting unreasonable pressure on the Afghan government, which is not able to respond to such numbers,” said Timor Sharan, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Afghanistan, in the Guardian.
While countries in the Global South continue to host the majority of refugees – with Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon leading the way – no EU country is even in the top five, despite its proximity to the war-torn Middle East.
This pressure on Afghanistan is part of a broader EU strategy to make aid to certain countries conditional on accepting deported migrants. Earlier this year, Turkey was offered US$7.8 billion to accept asylum seekers and improve border controls. Other countries the EU has pressured into similar deals include Niger, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Lebanon, Libya, Eritrea and Sudan.
Afghanistan is “absolutely not safe,” according to Sharan. “The EU’s rationale is that these people can just resettle in other parts of Afghanistan, (beyond where they’re from) … But the security situation is fluid. Places, cities and highways that were safe a month ago are not anymore.”
Broken glass and debris inside a restaurant a day after a July 2016 suicide attack in the Afghan capital Kabul. | Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters
Civilian casualties continue to rise in the region, with a suicide bomber killing at least 80 people in July, and a dozen people murdered in an attack on a university in August.
Sharan told the Guardian that while cities can be relatively safe, it is difficult for immigrants especially to fashion a comfortable life there.
“Jobs often come through social connections, and many asylum seekers have lived for years, if not decades, in Iran or Pakistan before migrating to Europe,” Sharan said, adding that many of those deported from Europe do not stay in Afghanistan but attempt to go to Europe or settle in neighboring Iran or Pakistan.