how discourse changed after the Syrian crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media about the situation in Afghanistan on August 24, 2021.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media about the situation in Afghanistan on August 24, 2021.| Photo: Sean Gallup / POOL / EFE

With the Taliban taking Afghanistan, the possible exodus of Afghans who fear living under the new Islamic regime fuels the expectation that an immigration crisis in Europe could happen, along the lines of 2015-2016, when millions of people fled the Middle East to the European continent and settled there.

However, Afghans who try the path to the European Union will not find the same opening for the reception of immigrants that once existed in the bloc.

Germany, for example, was one of the countries that most welcomed immigrants in the previous crisis. In 2015 alone, 1.5 million people fleeing war and poverty settled in the country; the overwhelming majority of Syria and North African countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at that time, repeatedly rejected internal pressures to make it difficult for immigrants to arrive at her country’s borders. She saw the refugee issue as a duty, and asked other countries to do the same.

Countries show resistance

The socio-political situation is different now. In a month, the Germans are going to the polls to elect a new federal parliament, and the new chancellor. Angela Merkel, the country’s leader since 2005, said she will retire from party life and certainly doesn’t want to hurt her party with another refugee crisis. In addition, the rise of terrorist attacks on European soil in recent years has caused governments to tighten immigration controls.

Merkel, in warning of a possible new wave of refugees, focused more on the need to help Afghanistan’s neighboring countries: “It’s mainly about helping the neighboring countries that Afghan refugees can go to,” she said.

The message follows the guidelines that Germany and other countries in the bloc were taking even before the riot at Kabul’s international airport made headlines. Germany and five other countries (Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands and Greece) already defended the need to maintain the deportations of Afghans in a letter to the European Commission earlier this month.

Greece’s Minister of Migration, Notis Mitarachi, said last week (17) that he does not want his country to become the EU’s entry point for Afghans fleeing their country.

“We are clearly saying that we will not and cannot be the gateway to Europe for refugees and migrants who might try to enter the European Union,” Mitarachi told state television ERT.

Also last week, who showed harmony with the other countries in the bloc was France, whose president Emmanuel Macron said the EU would present a “robust” plan to protect the bloc from a possible wave of immigrants.

“We must anticipate and protect against significant irregular migration flows that would endanger immigrants and may encourage trafficking of all kinds,” Macron said in a televised address.

The French president intends to involve the transit countries in “an effort of solidarity and cooperation”. On the problematic US exit from Afghanistan, the president was emphatic: “Europe cannot take on the consequences alone”, concluded Macron.

EU wants collaboration from neighboring countries

This Tuesday at an extraordinary meeting of the G7, the Prime Minister of Italy, Mauro Draghi, stressed the need to provide humanitarian aid and manage migrants. Draghi stated that there is a need to call on the G20 countries to resolve the crisis.

“To achieve these goals – concluded Draghi – I believe that the G7 must also show itself united in opening relations with other countries. In this, the G20 can help the G7 to involve other countries that are very important because they have the ability to control what is happening in Afghanistan: Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and India.”

Europeans want Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to take in refugees. The European bloc announced on Monday its commitment to quadruple humanitarian aid this year, to around 200 million euros, in order to deal with urgent needs in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

Diverting migratory pressure from Europe to countries around Afghanistan will require a lot of political pressure and a considerable increase in funding for humanitarian aid, given that neighboring countries have been making an effort to welcome Afghan immigrants for years.

Pakistan is already home to 1.4 million refugees, while Iran has nearly a million, according to early 2021 data from the United Nations Agency for Refugees.