EU Received Over 4,600 Afghan Asylum Applications Since May, Prompting Migrant Wave Concern

The European Union's (EU) asylum office has received more than 4,648 asylum applications from Afghans since May, prompting concerns over a migrant wave following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.

Asylum applications from Afghans rose by one-third since February and EU foreign ministers held emergency discussions Tuesday to discuss the security impact of the Taliban's rule. The EU estimates that since 2015, around 570,000 Afghans have applied for asylum. They comprise one of the biggest groups seeking refuge in Europe, after Syrians.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France, Germany and other European partners would work on a "robust response" to a new wave of migrants that do not have asylum approval but said, "Europe cannot alone assume the consequences."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

"Help Afghans" Sign in Berlin
The European Union's asylum office received over 4,600 Afghan asylum applications since May, prompting concerns over a migrant wave after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Above, a participant holds up a sign reading "Help Afghans" during a demonstration near the Chancellery in Berlin on August 17, 2021. John Macdougall/AFP via Getty Images

There are concerns that a widespread fear of hardline Islamist rule will provoke an exodus from conflict-ravaged Afghanistan.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the meeting would focus on how to support each other to get EU citizens and local Afghan staffers out of the country, how to deal with the Taliban in the future and how to keep the region stable if people leave Afghanistan in big numbers.

"We will watch the developments very closely, and those who are now executing power in Afghanistan will be judged by their action," Maas told reporters in Berlin. "We will especially focus on the stability of the region. The neighboring countries will certainly be confronted with further refugee movements."

Many countries in Europe are concerned about an influx of refugees like the mass exodus from Syria in 2015.

Macron stressed the "robust response" to a wave of migrants would be a joint effort and involve transit countries that Afghans may move through, which include Turkey.

Austria, meanwhile, plans to suggest at Wednesday's meeting of EU interior ministers that deportation centers be set up in countries that neighbor Afghanistan.

The arrival of well over 1 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.

Asylum applications climbed since February as it became clear that the U.S. would pull its troops out of Afghanistan. About half of the applications tend to be successful.

More entries from Afghanistan should be manageable for the EU bloc of 450 million people. Most Afghans are likely to flee to Iran, Pakistan or other northern neighbors like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top German politicians warned of a possible new wave of refugees and appealed for assistance to help Afghanistan's neighbors keep people close to their homes.

"This is primarily about helping neighboring countries to which the Afghan refugees may perhaps go," Merkel told reporters.

The International Organization for Migration warned Tuesday of a growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the conflict exacerbates the impact of a major drought and the coronavirus pandemic. It said nearly 400,000 people in Afghanistan have been displaced so far this year and that over 5 million others depend on aid.

The U.N.'s refugee agency is calling for a moratorium on the forced returns of Afghan citizens, including asylum-seekers who have had their claims rejected. The UNHCR also noted that "countries such as Iran and Pakistan have for decades generously hosted the vast majority of the total global number of Afghan refugees."

Afghans Entering Pakistan
The European Union's asylum office received over 4,600 Afghan asylum applications since May, prompting concerns over a migrant wave after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Above, a porter pushes a wheelbarrow carrying an ill Afghan national as he and his relatives enter Pakistan through a border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan, on August 17, 2021. Jafar Khan/AP Photo