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Greece Wants EU Borders Protected from Afghan Refugee Influx

ΑΤΗΕΝS — Anticipating a tidal wave of Afghans fleeing the deadly rule of The Taliban which seized the country in a week, Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the European Union has to protect the borders while accepting some refugees.

Greece is already holding nearly 100,000 in detention centers and camps on five islands near Turkey – the jumping off point for those fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands.

Virtually all are seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them but a handful of countries in the bloc said they will accept a few hundred each although hundreds of thousands could try to leave Afghanistan to reach Europe.

Dendias made a plea during an EU foreign ministers video conference that was held to talk about what to do if Afghans try to start flooding the bloc, with Greece the preferred initial destination.

He said getting EU citizens out of the country is the first priority and welcomed plans of some EU member states to take in Afghan nationals who had worked as interpreters for Greek forces in the country, as part of a NATO mission, and their families, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

He didn't say if Greece would take them in as they had worked for Greece and told his colleagues that the Taliban, which during a repressive regime from 1996-2001 before US forces responding to the 2001 attacks and NATO sent troops had stoned women to death, raped and killed and destroyed world heritage sites.

He said the Taliban must respect fundamental rights and freedoms, and guarantee the protection of women, minors and minorities, as well as of cultural sites, reported Kathimerini, although the EU hasn't said what would happen otherwise.

Dendias warned that migration flows would increase, and a new humanitarian crisis should be averted, looking for collaboration with Turkey – which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them even during an essentially suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

After Spain said it would accept 400 Afghan refugees, North Macedonia said it would take in 450 but some EU countries, prominently anti-migrant Hungary, have refused to aid. Albania and Kosovo offered to take some Afghans too.

The refugees to arrive in North Macedonia will be employees and families of Afghan employees “in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, activists from rights organizations, journalists, translators, students and scholarship holders,” North Macedonia’s government said in a statement, reported Reuters.

Many countries in Europe are concerned about an influx of refugees like the mass exodus from Syria in 2015. Afghans are already among the biggest group seeking sanctuary in Europe, after Syrians. Some EU estimates suggest about 570,000 Afghans have applied for asylum over the last six years.

“We have to ensure that the new political situation created in Afghanistan by the return of the Taliban does not lead to a large-scale migratory movement towards Europe,” EU foreign chief Josep Borrell said, adding that will involve talks with transit countries.

The UN's refugee agency is calling for a moratorium on the forced returns of Afghan citizens. The UNHCR also noted that “countries such as Iran and Pakistan have for decades generously hosted the vast majority” of Afghan refugees.

Borrell also underlined the importance of opening talks with the Taliban to help prevent an exodus of refugees as a humanitarian crisis unfolds in the conflict-ravaged country.

“We have to get in touch with the authorities in Kabul, whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war, so we will have to talk with them,” Borrell told reporters. “This dialogue will also have to focus on the means to prevent the return of foreign terrorists.”

“It’s not a matter of official recognition, it’s a matter of dealing with” the Taliban, Borrell said.

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