Afghans Make Up Second-Largest Group Applying for Asylum in EU Since 2015

Afghans make up the second-largest group to apply for asylum in the European Union since 2015 with around 570,000 applicants, the Associated Press reported.

Applications from Afghans for asylum climbed roughly 30 percent since February when the United States announced it would be pulling troops out of Afghanistan. According to the EU's asylum office, over 4,648 applications were submitted in May; about half tend to be successful.

"It's important that we can help these people in Afghanistan, when possible, to return to their homes," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said. "We also need to help neighboring countries and support Afghanis and these neighboring countries in the region."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghan Asylum Seekers Second in EU
Afghans make up the second-largest group to seek asylum in the European Union since 2015. Above, Afghan migrants protest the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, on the Greek island of Lesbos on August 16, 2021. Manolis Lagoutaris/Getty Images

"It's not possible to send people back to Afghanistan in these days. It's not safe," Johansson said in a video statement.

Speaking after a videoconference with EU interior ministers, she said that Europe "should not wait until people stand at our external border. We need to help them before that. It's also important that we help those under immediate threat to be resettled to EU member states."

The arrival of well over a million migrants in 2015, mostly from Syria and Iraq, sparked one of the 27-nation EU's biggest crises as nations bickered over how best to manage the influx. The infighting continues today, and a new wave of migrants from Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate tensions.

Austria's interior minister called Wednesday for "deportation centers" to be built in countries neighboring Afghanistan.

"It is important to keep up the rule of law and credibility even in a crisis like Afghanistan is experiencing right now. And it should continue to be possible to especially deport violent asylum seekers," Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said. "It must be our goal to keep the majority of the people in the region."

The U.N.'s refugee agency has called for a moratorium on the forced return of Afghan nationals, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected. Neighboring countries are also likely to be overburdened.

The UNHCR said "it would not be appropriate to forcibly return nationals or former habitual residents of Afghanistan to countries in the region, in view of the fact that countries such as Iran and Pakistan have for decades generously hosted the vast majority of the total global number of Afghan refugees."

Afghan Asylum Seekers Second in EU
Afghans make up the second-largest group to seek asylum in the European Union since 2015. Above, demonstrators raise their fists during a protest to raise awareness regarding the situation in Afghanistan outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on August 18, 2021. Francisco Seco/Associated Press