Will Moldova Be Asked to Accept Afghan Refugees?

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Vladimir ROTAR

Europe is expecting a new wave of migration generated by the dramatic events in Afghanistan. The majority of the EU member states strongly oppose taking in refugees en masse, but are ready to pay other countries for hosting them

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan triggered local residents, who do not want to live under the Islamist rule, to flee the country en masse. The United States and its allies alone have evacuated more than 120,000 civilians. Those who were not lucky enough to fly away with the withdrawn Western contingents of troops are now trying by any means to get across the borders already sealed off by the Taliban. As the UN Refugee Agency projects, the migration wave from Afghanistan will have amounted to at least half a million people by the end of the year. The European Union, which has borne all the burden of hosting the previous "Syrian" flow, is already sounding the alarm. However, there is no unanimity on this issue, and different European officials, institutions and authorities of individual countries express completely opposite opinions. For example, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, during a meeting of the foreign ministers of the EU countries, said that the countries of the union should abandon the forced repatriation of migrants to Afghanistan and increase quotas for their admission. In turn, the Council of Europe intends to hold a special conference on the issue of Afghan refugees this month and called on its members to ensure that their rights are protected. "Member states should unequivocally commit to handling the arrival of persons fleeing the horrendous situation in Afghanistan, in accordance with their human rights obligations," reads the message of the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic. At the same time, the official admitted: while some countries have set a positive example, others have "hinted at, announced and taken steps towards border closures, the building of walls and fences, restrictions on asylum applications." Indeed, many European states have already started acting. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Finland reported that the country's immigration service will suspend the migrant deportation to Afghanistan and will review the previously issued refusals in view of the political situation in the Islamic republic. Great Britain showed unexpected hospitality by agreeing on a program for the gradual resettlement of 20 thousand refugees from Afghanistan to the kingdom. Traditionally, Germany is also ready to lend a helping hand, although not to the same extent as in 2015. Nevertheless, these cases are more likely an exception. There are many more examples to the contrary. The Prime Minister of Slovenia, which holds the presidency of the EU Council, warned that the union is not going to open humanitarian and migration corridors for Afghan refugees. A categorical refusal to shelter migrants was voiced in Austria and Greece. Athens has actually started reinforcing its borders by building a wall almost along its entire border with Turkey. Ankara, meanwhile, is doing the same on the border with Iran. There's no way that Turkey will again quell the wave of refugees: merely the news disseminated in the British media about Great Britain opening several centers in the country to receive the Afghan citizens caused a big scandal, so that it was hastily denied by the Turkish government. Furthermore, at the August 31 emergency meeting of the EU home affairs ministers in Brussels, a decision was made to prevent the recurrence of the 2015-2016 migration crisis. The ministers stated that the European Union will not allow the mass migration from Afghanistan to Europe and will enhance the policing of external borders. Head of the European Parliament David Sassoli expressed deep disappointment with this position, "We have seen countries outside the EU come forward to welcome Afghan asylum seekers, but we have not seen a single member state that would have done the same... We cannot pretend that the Afghan question does not concern us, since we participated in this mission, sharing its goals and objectives." As a result, the EU countries have made it clear: there will be no mass admission of refugees this time, the "green corridor" will be given only to those who worked for Western forces during the military campaign of the United States and its allies. In fact, according to experts, this time Europe is going to simply buy it off: in particular, it considers the option of supporting refugees in Afghanistan's neighboring countries, primarily Pakistan and Iran, by concluding appropriate agreements with them, including those on providing subsidies. Their rationale is obvious: to suppress the migration flow far from the EU borders, which is quite understandable. The previous wave of 2015-2016 has not been fully managed so far, entailing rather serious implications: difficulties with the refugees' integration in the host countries, increased criminality, xenophobia and social tension. One of the dire results was the widespread dissatisfaction among the population of EU countries that massively accepted the migrants and the right-wing populist forces growing in popularity against this background. Notable, the EU-proposed options to resolve the crisis have little chance to succeed. Iran is already hosting about 3 million refugees from Afghanistan and agrees only to temporarily shelter a small part of the migrants on the border. And Pakistan, which supports the Taliban, is not ready to open its borders at all. In these conditions, Brussels will one way or another have to explore other options, which might well refocus its attention onto its nearest sphere of influence - for example, the Eastern Partnership members, especially its active core in the form of the Associated Trio. Curiously, the same Ukraine, conscious of current trends, was actively involved in the evacuation from Kabul, and even earned the praise of its American partners. As a result, several hundred Afghan citizens are already in our neighboring country, many of whom have applied for asylum. As for Moldova, it signed a joint statement last week, together with almost a hundred other states around the world, on the guarantees to evacuate people from Afghanistan. And now Chisinau is considering the possibility of implementing the recommendations of the Council of Europe which reminded the member states of the need to comply with the obligation to receive Afghan refugees. "We have had no discussions on this request. We will analyze whether we can do this and to what extent we can contribute. The Taliban regime is far from Western values ​​and poses a danger to women, the media and all those who have a different vision. There is a humanitarian crisis there, so we have to analyze what we can do," said Speaker of the Parliament Igor Grosu. It's worth noting that the new migration crisis places the leadership of Moldova before a difficult dilemma, similar to the recent one in connection with the Crimean Platform summit. Both today's and previous cases have a certain logic of geopolitical and regional processes which will push Chisinau, regardless of all the risks to bear the costs, to make certain decisions, even if they run counter to its objective interests. The decision-consequence variance in the refugee issue is very simple. Obviously, this idea won't be popular in the Moldovan society and will most likely result in numerous scandals in the social and political life of the republic. However, given the victory of the pro-European forces in the last two election campaigns, Moldova again confidently claims the laurels of a new success story and a high-achiever in the European integration. And the current crisis situation is an additional chance to significantly boost relations with the EU, demonstrating loyalty and readiness to help in a very pressing issue for Brussels - and also to receive generous subsidies for migrants support along with other aid packages. Another important point for Chisinau is that now is in fact the best time to make a positive decision on the Council of Europe's initiative. The elections have just completed, and the authorities have at least several years to mitigate all the possible negative impact of accepting refugees on their territory. Therefore, it should not be ruled out that in case of the EU's persistence in this issue Chisinau will agree to accommodate.