VILNIUS — The European Commission should take charge of “equally” relocating Afghan refugees following the Taliban takeover of their country, European Parliament President David Sassoli said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Lithuania, Sassoli said the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and images of Afghans desperate to flee their country “will favor a migratory wave” in Europe and the bloc “will have to show it cares about respecting ethics.”
“I believe that the European Commission could be tasked with an equal redistribution among all European countries,” Sassoli said, standing alongside Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė. “I think that the Commission can fulfill this task well and with equanimity … I think that this can also be done quickly.”
Sassoli’s remarks echoed calls to grant asylum to Afghans imperiled by the country’s rapid takeover by the Taliban. On Tuesday, the U.K. announced plans to take in an extra 5,000 Afghans this year as part of a new resettlement program that gives priority to women and girls.
But some EU countries, notably Hungary and Poland have been fiercely opposed to redistribution around the bloc of arrivals in the past and are unlikely to welcome Sassoli’s call to share out people coming from Afghanistan.
The European Parliament president’s tone was also markedly more welcoming to people fleeing from Afghanistan than some other EU leaders. Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron did not talk about relocating Afghan refugees, but said France and Germany would push for a European plan to tackle migration flows from Afghanistan. The plan, he said, would focus on “the fight against irregular flows, solidarity in the effort, the harmonization of protection criteria and the establishment of cooperation with transit and host countries such as Pakistan, Turkey or Iran.”
“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against major irregular migratory flows that would endanger those who use them and feed trafficking of all kinds,” Macron said in a pre-recorded speech from Fort de Brégançon, on France’s Mediterranean coast where he is spending the summer break. “Europe alone cannot bear the consequences of the current situation,” he added.
And in Germany, Christian Democrat leader and chancellor hopeful Armin Laschet on Sunday evoked the migration crisis in 2015 prompted by the war in Syria. He stressed that while western countries ought to evacuate their local partners and “women who are at particular risk” from the country, “2015 should not be repeated.”
On Wednesday, Sassoli also met with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and paid a visit to the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. There he inspected one of the crossing points where the EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, has urgently deployed extra agents in response to neighboring Belarus allowing hundreds of irregular migrants to cross into the country in retaliation for EU sanctions.
“I’m here to say that the border between Belarus and Lithuania is a European border,” Sassoli said, criticizing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s efforts to “instrumentalize” people. “I believe that in this moment, there should be a stronger push from all EU institutions when it comes to protecting the European space,” he said.
Later this week, Sassoli will travel to Latvia and Estonia. In Tallinn, he will join celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of Estonia’s independence and meet Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
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