European Countries Scramble To Get Their Personnel Home As The Taliban Enter Kabul

A senior official in Afghanistan’s interior ministry told Al Jazeera on Sunday that the Taliban entered the capital Kabul from all sides. This happened much quicker than many commentators expected. Just three days before the Taliban entered the capital, U.S. intelligence warned that Kabul could “fall” within 90 days and 30 until it was under “pressure.” Many European countries have closed their embassies and are now trying to fly home their personnel. On Monday morning, Reuters reported that there was chaos at Kabul’s airport. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have closed their embassies and are evacuating citizens. Britain, Italy, and Spain have also said they are evacuating embassy personnel. Russia has also decided to evacuate parts of its embassy personnel. A reporter told SVT a rumor has spread in Kabul that if people could get to the airport, they would be able to leave without a passport or paper.

As the evacuations are underway, the question about local helpers resurfaces. People like the interpreters that helped the NATO-led coalition are in danger as the Taliban take over, and the agreements of asylum in the countries they help are often dishonored. One of the interpreters that were denied a visa to the U.S. told CNN “[I]f [the Taliban] find me, they will kill me and…my family.” Germany has announced that their embassy is closed. They are evacuating both citizens and local helpers. According to Germany’s Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbaue, they plan to set up a place in a third country from where they will help pole get back to Germany.

Earlier, several countries, including Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands all paused deportations to Afghanistan. On Sunday, Morgan Johansson, the Swedish migration minister told SVT “[I] think many who did think that we should send back people to Afghanistan now regrets it.” He also said that Sweden will use the quotation system to give protection to local helpers, but Sweden is removing the third country requirement. This means that people can apply for refuge without having to leave Afghanistan. Meanwhile, both Albania and Kosovo have agreed to temporarily host people seeking asylum in the U.S.

Turkey has urged the international community to work for stability, to avoid a big migration wave. They previously worked as a border country, getting paid by European countries to stop the flow of migrants from entering Europe. In March 2016, Turkey and the EU entered an agreement that in effect made Turkey a buffer zone for Syrian refugees. Human rights tied to refuge and asylum are state and territorially based. Refugees need to enter a state for that state’s legal duty to “start.” Therefore, they need the EU states for EU refuge legislation to “start.”

The 2016 agreement with Turkey was highly criticized on serval grounds. One of them was that it made it hard for people to even reach the countries they sought refuge in. With the progression of the Taliban, fears of an immigration wave are again present in Europe. Earlier this month, Belgium’s Secretary of State suggested that the 2016 agreement should be extended to Afghan refugees as well. Also, Austrian prime minister Sebastian Kurz suggested that Afghan refugees should be received in Turkey. How likely Turkey is to actually agree to a new deal is unclear.

The Taliban have been far more successful than most expected. As European countries evacuate their personnel and citizens, fears of a migrations flow are increasing. Margaritis Schinas, the EU Commission Vice President tweeted on Sunday “[T]he clock has run out on how long we can wait to adopt the complete overhaul of Europe’s migration and asylum rules we need.” According to Politico, “[N]umerous attempts to overhaul EU asylum policy have failed since the height of the migration and asylum crisis of 2015.” However, it is clear that EU will now need to swiftly address its immigration policy, hopefully to create a more human and effective one, in case of increased migration from Afghanistan.