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EU ‘shirking responsibility’ by shutting out refugees, rights groups warn

RIGHTS groups blasted the European Union today for “shirking” its responsibilities by slamming the door on Afghan refugees.

Over 100,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul last month amid a chaotic rout as Washington scrambled to withdraw its troops by a deadline agreed with the Taliban.

The bloc’s asylum agency said today that applications numbered 7,300 in July – before the Taliban takeover – a 21 per cent increase on June. Almost 1,200 of those were from unaccompanied minors, it warned.

Twenty-four non-governmental organisations signed a demand that the EU “should be sharing, rather than shirking, the responsibility to offer them protection.”

The groups, which include Amnesty, Catholic relief agency Caritas Europa, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and the Red Cross, warned that 18 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. More than 630,000 people have been forced from their homes so far this year by violence and drought.

Slamming EU chiefs for prioritising measures to keep refugees out, the organisations stated: “We regret the misleading and alarmist rhetoric expressed by some European leaders in the past weeks ... [which] may raise barriers to refugees’ integration.”

They acccused bloc leaders of stoking “fears about a non-existent crisis at Europe’s borders.”

Poland and Lithuania have declared states of emergency over Belarus’s decision to open its border to allow refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq to enter the EU, a move they say is in revenge for EU sanctions.

The EU has previously faced criticism for its failure to protect child refugees, including for illegal pushbacks to Turkey and through helping the Libyan coastguard return people trying to cross the Mediterranean to their war-torn country, where reports suggest many are trafficked into slavery.

In 2016, Europol warned that 10,000 child refugees had gone missing in the EU. 

An investigation by the Guardian and journalism collective Lost in Europe found in April that 18,292 unaccompanied child migrants went missing in Europe between January 2018 and December 2020 – equivalent to nearly 17 children a day.

Federica Toscano, head of advocacy and migration at Missing Children Europe, warned then that criminal gangs were targeting unaccompanied child refugees for forced “labour and sexual exploitation, forced begging and trafficking.”

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