Europe braces for unprecedented wave of Afghan refugees, fears repeat of 2015 crisis

Many countries, some of which are still dealing with the consequences of the 2015 refugee crisis, have already made it clear that they will not allow Afghan refugees through their borders.

By Tobias Siegal, World Israel News

With the U.S. deadline for evacuating all American troops from Afghanistan fast approaching, and with other countries like the UK having completed the process already, some are drawing attention to the day after the West has left Afghanistan.

One of the most obvious and immediate implications of the Taliban’s conquest of the country is the unprecedented wave of Afghan refugees that will soon follow. And many countries have already started bracing for the arrival of potentially hundreds of thousands — possibly even millions — of refugees and migrants from the war-torn country.

According to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, that number could reach a staggering 5 million refugees who will be making their way to Europe in the upcoming months.

Many countries, some of which are still dealing with the consequences of the 2015 refugee crisis, have already made it clear that they will not allow Afghan refugees through their borders.

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz for instance, has vowed that his country will not be taking in any more Afghan refugees, after taking in over 40,000 in recent years.

“I am clearly opposed to us now taking in more people. That will not happen under my chancellorship. Taking in people who then cannot be integrated is a huge problem for us as a country,” he said.

Germany, which faces federal elections in September, has voiced similar concerns. Paul Ziemiak, general-secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has stated that “2015 [when Germany allowed over a million refugees into the country] must not be repeated. We will not be able to solve the Afghanistan issue by migration to Germany.”

Greece has gone to great lengths to avoid a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis. The country has already erected a 40 kilometer (25 mile) long fence along its border with Turkey, as well as advanced surveillance systems, meant to deter Afghan refugees from entering the gateway country into Europe.

Identifying the looming problem, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi issued a statement on Monday, calling on countries to leave their borders open and provide international protections to those who will soon need it.

Noting the images coming out of Kabul airport these past few days, which “have sparked an outpouring of compassion around the world at the fear and desperation of thousands of Afghans,” Grandi argued that “when these images have faded from our screens, there will still be millions who need the international community to act.”

When it’s all over, “the overwhelming majority of Afghans, some 39 million, will remain inside Afghanistan. They need us – governments, humanitarians, ordinary citizens – to stay with them and stay the course,” he said.

“Some Afghans will inevitably need to seek safety across the country’s borders. They must be able to exercise their right to seek international protection, and borders must be kept open for them for this purpose … We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning,” Grandi concluded.

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Soeren Kern/The Algemeiner contributed to this report.