A meeting of the 27 justice and interior ministers in Brussels agreed that Afghans who had co-operated with the EU and its member states should be resettled along with their families. However, a joint statement focused on ways to avoid a large-scale migration akin to that triggered by the Syrian civil war in 2015.
EU borders should be secured to prevent “unauthorised entries”, and sufficient aid should be funnelled to Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries to encourage those in need to stay where they are, the ministers agreed.
“Based on lessons learned, the EU and its member states stand determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past,” the statement read. “Incentives to illegal migration should be avoided.”
Afghanistan and its neighbouring states should receive sufficient aid so that those who need it “receive adequate protection primarily in the region”, rather than travelling towards Europe, it read.
“What we’re looking at is trying to avoid a situation that did happen in 2015, where you did have mass uncontrolled migration,” said minister of state at the department of justice James Browne, who attended for Ireland, following the meeting.
“The solution that was agreed was to ensure that the full supports are given to those countries in the region, and to treat this as a humanitarian crisis, get financial support, get aid through international agencies out there as well, support those Afghans who are in those neighbouring countries, and to prevent the need for those to actually start making their way to the to the EU.”
Ireland was among a group of member states to object to the use of the phrase “illegal migration” in the statement and suggest that it be replaced with “irregular migration”.
“The most important thing now is to send the right message into the region: stay there, and we will support the region to help the people there,” said Austrian interior minister Karl Nehammer.
His Danish counterpart Mattias Tesfaye said the EU’s frontier states should be supported in securing their borders. “Political signals are very important,” Mr Tesfaye said. “People should not come to Europe. People should stay in their region.”
Policy on migration has hardened in the EU in recent years, and right-wing anti-immigration parties hold power in several countries, including in Slovenia, which currently chairs such meetings of EU ministers as it holds the rotating presidency.
It comes as Poland is expected to declare a state of emergency to cope with a worsening situation on its border with Belarus, where thousands of people attempted unauthorised crossings in the past month.
EU and Polish authorities say that the neighbouring regime of Alexander Lukashenko is flying people from the Middle East and sending them to the borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland in an attempt to put political pressure on the union, after it imposed sanctions on Minsk due to a clampdown on dissent.