EU, Afghanistan agree on return of unlimited number of Afghan migrants

Refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan protest against their deportation to Turkey on April 5, 2016 in Lesbos, Greece. An unlimited number of migrants will soon be returned to Afghanistan from the EU

Story highlights

A new terminal could be built at Kabul airport to accommodate those deported from Europe

Nearly 180,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the EU last year

CNN  — 

The European Union and Afghanistan have agreed to a deal that will ramp up the return of Afghan migrants who fail to gain asylum.

A new dedicated terminal could even be built at Kabul airport to accommodate those have been deported from Europe.

The Joint Way Forward repatriation agreement published Tuesday is the result of six months of negotiations. It will allow European countries to deport an unlimited number of failed Afghan asylum seekers who have refused to return voluntarily.

Afghanistan has committed to the readmission and reintegration of all of them.

A new terminal could be built at Hamid Karzai International airport  in Kabul as a result of the agreement

According to a joint press release from the two sides, the agreement seeks to find bilateral solutions to common problems.

These include raising public awareness among Afghans of the risks of irregular migration, breaking the smugglers’ models and providing sustainable reintegration for those who return to Afghanistan.

According to the agreement, “both sides will explore the possibility to build a dedicated terminal for return in Kabul airport.”

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The agreement stipulates a limit of 50 non-voluntary returnees per flight in the first six months on “scheduled or non-scheduled flights to Kabul airport and any other specified Afghan airports,” but does not state a limit on the number of flights.

It also states: “Prior to returning Afghan nationals, the EU side will give fair consideration to humanitarian aspects in accordance with international law to unaccompanied minors, single women and women who are head of their families, family unity, elderly and seriously sick people. Special measures will ensure that such vulnerable groups receive adequate protection, assistance and care throughout the whole process.”

Increased number of asylum seekers

According to Eurostat, the statistical wing of the European Commission, 178,000 Afghans applied for asylum in EU member states in 2015 – quadruple the number who applied the previous year. They were the second largest nationality behind Syrians.

Nearly half of those who sought protection last year applied in two countries: Hungary (45,600) and Sweden (41,200).

According to a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, in the first 8 months of this year, IOM assisted 5,011 voluntary returns to Afghanistan from Europe.

On Tuesday, speaking at an international conference on Afghanistan in Brussels, EU Council President Donald Tusk said: “I want to thank the Afghan government for its courage in agreeing a way forward to manage migration fairly in co-operation with the European Union. We will support this agreement with money and job-creation programs to reintegrate returning migrants to the benefit of their local communities.”

Poor security situation

Afghanistan is currently experiencing a “very bad” security situation, according to Fatima Aziz, a member of the Afghan parliament from the northern city of Kunduz, who spoke to CNN Tuesday.

The Taliban mounted a strong assault on Kunduz on Sunday although Afghan forces regained control of the center of the city by Tuesday, according to Afghan police.

US forces have carried out more than 700 airstrikes in the first eight months of 2016, in large part to support Afghan troops on the ground.