Afghanistan Crisis Sparks Fear In Europe Of New Refugee Exodus

In the midst of America’s withdrawal, the Taliban have regained power in Afghanistan and sent the country into chaos. While the United States is focused on getting its own people out, a broader humanitarian crisis is brewing. The Taliban’s brutal policies and takeover of the region are creating mass panic among Afghans who are terrified of living under its rule. Many citizens and families are desperate for a way out of the country, not only to live in freedom but also for personal safety. 

Many in the international community fear that the situation in Afghanistan could spark another refugee crisis. Of course, the U.S. needs to accept its own responsibility and do its part to host Afghan refugees. But Europe has an equally important role to play and its own accountability in preventing a humanitarian crisis. It is essential that countries across the world, in particular those involved in the war in Afghanistan including Europe, accept refugees within their borders. Sadly, over the past few days, it is becoming clear that many European nations are not only hesitant to accept refugees, but are publicly opposed to it. 

Afghanistan’s situation could add fuel to the decade long refugee crisis driven by wars and humanitarian issues coming out of Syria and Iraq. Already, over one million people have been displaced due to wars in the Middle East. Many of these refugees initially fled to neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Further, thousands risked their lives and paid smugglers to enter Europe for asylum. 

The response from European countries was shameful, as many turned to increasingly xenophobic policies and rhetoric to keep refugees out of Europe. For example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed to be securing Hungary’s borders against Muslim refugees “to keep Europe Christian,” according to The New York Times. Europe accepted far fewer refugees than it needed to, and thus many thousands fleeing from the Middle East died- a direct result of western xenophobia. The likelihood of an influx in Afghan refugees is likely, and Europe already appears to be shutting its doors to them. 

Germany for instance, faces an election in September and could potentially have a government dominated by a far-right populist party known as Alternative for Germany (AfD). In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel famously set up a program allowing undocumented immigrants into Germany, mainly from the Middle East. AfD rose to prominence by its opposition to Merkel’s policies, and even called for an investigation of “breaches of the law” into her administration, as reported by the BBC. AfD has a good chance of gaining power with the upcoming election, and if so it is likely to impose strict immigration policies to keep refugees out of Germany. Unfortunately, if AfD fails in the election, refugees still face an uphill battle. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has stated that it is hesitant to allow Afghan refugees into Germany. 

It is essential that Europe and the rest of the western countries find a way to accommodate potential refugees. The Taliban’s harsh policies will likely force Afghans to flee, and many will hope to find safety in Europe. It is important to understand that refugees are not dangerous people, but in fact some of the most vulnerable people in the world. They wouldn’t risk their lives traveling across the world if they had any other choice. The refugee crisis in the 2010s cannot be repeated. It came about not because of an influx of refugees, but the deliberately xenophobic and racist policies barring access for them. If Europe and the U.S. are not careful, a similar crisis could happen again, so it is essential that these regions adopt policies to welcome refugees with a path to citizenship.