Democracy Digest: Slovakia and Czechia join the Afghan hunt
“We want to help Afghanistan and the countries in this region,” Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said at a press conference. “But we don’t want the situation to repeat itself from 2015 onwards, so that’s where we’re going to be aiming for all of our steps.”
More than a million people from the Middle East and Africa fled war and poverty six years ago, many leaving refugee camps in hopes of finding a better life in Europe . Hundreds of thousands of people crossed Turkey via the so-called Balkan route before it was sealed off in a succession of border closures, RFE / RL noted.
Heger echoed the sentiments of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who expressed concern over a massive influx of Afghans into Europe, where “there really is no room for them”.
“A better alternative is a solution that forces the people to stay in Afghanistan,” he concluded.
Slovakia organized two evacuation flights from Kabul airport and rescued more than 50 people with ties to the country. Many more, however, remained stranded in Afghanistan. The Czech Republic has evacuated nearly 170 Afghans with ties to the country, most of whom have since sought asylum or subsidiary protection in the country.
After an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers this week, Hungarian Foreign and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto said: “Hungary has a clear position. We brought out the Afghans who helped us, but we’re not ready to accept anyone else – we don’t even want to think about it.
Szijjarto described intense discussions among his European colleagues over whether to call on the Taliban to release those who want to leave the country, but the Central European Group rejected the idea. Szijjarto said that would have given a blank check for the departure of all Afghans and would amount to making the same mistakes as in 2015. He called Afghanistan a “hotbed of international terrorism”.
Hungary received around 300 Afghans who had worked closely with the Hungarian army, most of whom will likely be granted some sort of permission to stay in Hungary. Half of them remain in the Vamosszabadi refugee camp now subject to quarantine rules, as at least one person has tested positive for COVID-19, local media reported.
The Hungarian government and the Fidesz-controlled media try to explain to their constituents that the Afghans evacuated by the Hungarian army are “good refugees”, but migration in general remains a bad and dangerous thing. Even in the case of “good Afghans”, there are unofficial expectations that as soon as their papers are completed they will travel to Western Europe where there is a large diaspora and Hungary will not have to deal with it. ‘them.
After meeting his Polish colleague Zbigniew Rau, the Hungarian Foreign Minister once again stressed that migration would become a central point of European debates. “The statements coming from Western Europe, which should be interpreted as an invitation to all Afghans, are extremely irresponsible,” Szijjarto complained.
He reiterated that Europe is under migratory pressure from several directions, not only from Africa and the Middle East, but also from the east, via Belarus. If this is accentuated by a new wave of migration from Afghanistan, it would have “unforeseeable consequences”.
Fortunately, he said, Hungary and Poland are partners and both have a “common sense” migration policy. He recalled that Hungary built a fence in 2015, and that Poland is now doing the same at its eastern border.
To maintain the siege mentality, media allied with the Hungarian government are broadcasting articles about the growing pressure on its southern border. Origo reported that thousands of illegal migrants have been found and returned to Serbia, the highest number so far this year. The news site warned that the pressure is likely to increase, as “the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could put millions in their way, and the [George] Soros organizations supporting migration have become more active.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, visiting Belgrade, also affirmed that “Serbia and Hungary will stop the migratory wave”.
“We can see that those who supported migration earlier – governments, NGOs, Soros organizations – continue to support or would support migrants coming from Afghanistan in the same way as before, which is very contrary to the best interests of both. country, ”Orban said. .
In a new twist, he asserted that Hungary is not only defending itself, but also Germany. “We all know these migrants don’t want to live in Serbia or Hungary, they are heading to Germany. Therefore, when we defend ourselves now – as we have done so many times in our history – we also defend Europe, mainly Germany.
Meanwhile, the Polish Lower House (Sejm) on Wednesday passed a bill that allows authorities to expel from Polish territory any migrant crossing the border outside official crossing points, whether or not they declare their intention to. apply for asylum in Poland. . The law also provides for the possibility of not considering an application lodged by a migrant who has crossed outside official border crossing points, with a few exceptions.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said in a statement that the bill approved by the Sejm “violates European asylum law” and “can be used for the illegal expulsion from Polish territory of ‘foreigners enjoying international protection’.
The legislation comes at a time when Belarus has sent thousands of migrants to the EU across its borders with Poland and the Baltic states. Poland, which has faced an exponential number of arrivals since early August (more than 3,500 attempts to cross its border in the last month alone), has carried out push-backs in response, according to rights and advocacy groups. ‘other observers in the field, including BIRN.
The government initially passed an implementing decree from a previous law in an attempt to legalize refoulements, but this week’s legislation would have more legal weight if finally enacted.
Since last week, a state of emergency has also existed in the area along the Polish-Belarusian border, which prevents journalists and NGOs from monitoring respect for migrants’ rights on the ground.