EU row brews as Turkey says it won’t be ‘warehouse’ for Afghan migrants fleeing to Europe

Afghanistan: ‘Taliban have all the cards’ says expert

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that the European Union cannot expect Ankara to take on the bloc’s international responsibilities to resettle asylum seekers. In a phone call, the strongman leader told EU Council President Charles Michel: “Turkey cannot handle an additional burden of migration. Third countries cannot expect Turkey to take on their international responsibilities.”

Eurocrats had been banking on an agreement with Turkey to prevent a a fresh wave of asylum seekers reaching Europe’s shores.

Veterans of the 2015 crisis, which saw more than 1.2 million travel to the bloc from war-torn nations in the Middle East and Africa, say simply allowing a repeat “is not a solution”.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell recently said that Turkey would play a “key role” in managing the risk of a large wave of Afghan refugees arriving in the bloc after fleeing the Taliban.

The diplomat said: “We need to ensure that the political situation created in Afghanistan by the return of the Taliban does not lead to a large scale migratory movement towards Europe.”

He added: “They are and will be coming to Europe via Iran, Iraq or the eastern Mediterranean.

“This shows that we need to work hard with transit countries. A humanitarian crisis must be prevented. Here, Turkey will play a very important role.”

But Turkey immediately rejected the approach and warned Brussels it is not willing to act as “Europe’s refugee warehouse”.

Ankara has also said it will not become “the border guard or refugee camp of the EU”.

Britain has pledged to take in 20,000 Afghans but the EU has been reluctant to open its borders.

There is a sense of panic amongst EU governments that they will not be able to prevent a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis.

The United Nations has said that 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced within the country this year alone.

And EU leaders believe many of them will head for Europe’s shores in the coming months.

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Just 4,000 Afghans have crossed into the bloc in the first half of the year, according to the European Commission. 

Officials have refused to make further predictions, saying the situation in Afghanistan remains too fluid.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called on the EU to ensure those fleeing the Taliban are given shelter in countries on the route to Europe.

Brussels wants to pump in cash to Afghanistan’s neighbours in the hope of preventing migrants travelling to Europe.

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Ex-marine 'ready to go’ to escort stranded Afghan animals to safety

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “We have learned the lesson from 2015 so that we will not see a new migration crisis in the EU.

“We should not wait until we have Afghan refugees at our external borders. We have to intervene much earlier and that also, of course, includes money.

“The EU must make sure that we don’t end up in a situation where a lot of people embark on dangerous smuggling routes ending up at our external borders.

“And this is an important gender issue because we know that those that are going on the irregular routes are mainly men. But we also know that those that are in most danger now in Afghanistan are women and girls. And that’s why we need to protect women and girls.”

President Erdogan vowed to put a “complete stop” to migrants entering the country and has ordered the construction of a 150-mile wall on its border with Iran.

Meanwhile EU leaders have refused to make claims about the number of Afghans they may take in.

Mrs Merkel said Germany would fly 10,000 people out of Afghanistan and Spain has offered to become a hub for 400 migrants that worked for EU member states.

But beyond that, most pledges have been left vague or even non-existent.

Armin Laschet, the favourite to replace Mrs Merkel as chancellor after next month’s elections, said: “We should not send the signal that Germany can take everyone in need.”

Italian premier Mario Draghi said: “We have begun to outline what will be the fundamental lines of co-operation at a European level.”

Greece has told its EU colleagues that it does not want to become a gateway to Europe. 

Its migration minister Notis Mitarach added: “The EU is not ready and does not have the capacity to handle another major migration crisis.”

Athens has already started work on an anti-migrant fence on its border with Turkey to keep would-be asylum seekers out.

Austria has refused to take in any Afghan asylum seekers and will instead continue deporting those whose applications fail.

Interior minister Karl Nehammer said: “Illegal migration, which runs through a dozen safe countries and where migrants simply choose a destination country, must be stopped.

“There is no reason why an Afghan should come to Austria now.”

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