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EU countries on Tuesday pledged to distribute an unspecified amount of funds to significantly boost financial support to Afghanistan’s neighbors to deal with the refugee crisis at their borders.

But they also pushed back discussions over the bloc’s own role in the potential acceptance of asylum seekers, citing fears of a “pull effect” that could attract more people.

At a meeting in Brussels, EU interior ministers adopted a text that promises financial support to “relevant international organizations” and to neighboring countries of Afghanistan “to strengthen their capacity to provide protection , dignified and secure reception conditions and sustainable livelihoods for refugees ”. The five-hour-plus talks nearly derailed when Luxembourg threatened to block a joint statement over complaints it did not express solidarity with Afghan refugees.

Neither EU ministers nor the European Commission could confirm exactly how much money they would offer Afghanistan’s neighbors such as Pakistan and Iran, a Commission spokesperson citing the nature “in course “discussions. An EU official, however, said the plan was to offer up to € 1 billion to neighboring countries.

Asked a Financial Times article that the figure could be around 600 million euros, German Home Secretary Horst Seehofer said that “whether that will be enough … also depends on whether neighboring countries think that this is sufficient ”.

The planned financial support reflects the EU’s broader goal of keeping Afghan migrants out of the bloc amid fears of a new wave and bitter internal disputes over the issue between member countries: “On the basis of lessons learned, the EU and its member states are determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of large-scale uncontrolled illegal migratory movements encountered in the past, by preparing a coordinated and orderly response, ”the statement said, adding that“ the incentives to illegal migration must be avoided ”.

EU countries fear a repeat of the 2015-16 refugee crisis, which was largely due to the conflict in Syria, after the Taliban recently took control of Afghanistan within days, triggering an exodus thousands of people to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran.

The text of the EU ministers also places a strong emphasis on “security”, stressing that “all efforts must be continued to ensure that the Taliban regime ceases all links and practices with international terrorism and that Afghanistan does not not again become a sanctuary for terrorists and organized criminal groups.

Resettlement debate

The clash between the Luxembourg Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn and his colleagues – namely from Germany, Austria and Slovenia – largely overshadowed other aspects of Tuesday’s talks. The debate revolved around whether, beyond the promise to prevent irregular migration, the EU should also make concrete resettlement commitments that would allow Afghans in need to migrate legally to the bloc. .

“The main objective is to support people in danger of death, who no longer live in freedom … It is not to secure the borders and organize repatriation,” Asselborn said Tuesday morning, threatening to block the declaration. if it was not changed.

“I am criticizing this in the strongest terms. This is not the attitude the European Union should have today.

The text ultimately did not change, but two diplomats said Asselborn had withdrawn his veto after EU Home Commissioner Ylva Johansson. confirmed She would convene an extraordinary meeting of the High Level Forum on Resettlement next month to discuss the potential resettlement of “the most vulnerable Afghans, especially women and children, but also human rights activists, journalists, lawyers ”.

The High Level Resettlement Forum is an EU effort to resettle asylum seekers in need to safe countries, in cooperation with allies like the United States and Canada as well as the United Nations. The Commission said it hoped that up to 30,000 people could be resettled in Europe under this program.

Germany’s Seehofer admitted on Tuesday evening that talks between ministers had been “intensive”, but stressed that “above all, the argument prevailed that after the West’s failure in Afghanistan it would send a devastating message if the EU were not in a position to act in a unified manner, this unity is now assured.

Seehofer insisted it was fair not to discuss figures for resettlement in the EU on Tuesday, as such talks could have risked triggering a so-called pull effect, encouraging more people to come, “and we don’t want it.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Seehofer said Germany would welcome local forces who had supported German military or civilian officials during their mission in Afghanistan, and added that “those in special need of protection” could also seek refuge in Germany.

On Monday, Germany’s Interior Ministry said it expected “more than 40,000 people”, including families of local forces, to be legally resettled in Germany.

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