September 17, 2021

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EU fury erupts over funding for Pakistan and Iran as continent prepares for migrant surge

EU member states are already clashing on how to deal with the thousands of new Afghanistan migrants looking to flee the country since the Taliban took over. Austria and Serbia have met to discuss stopping refugees from entering Europe, over the weekend.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz suggested Afghanistan’s neighbours should accept migrants instead.

He said: “This is why we are in contact with countries in the region.”

But as leaders in the EU call for a global approach to the migration crisis, questions over the EU’s financial support to countries like Pakistan and Iran are arising.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told Politico a solution to the ethical issue could be to use UN organisations to pay governments in the region.

She said: “It’s not so easy to deal with Pakistan and Iran but there are ways to support migrants and refugees directly.

“Most important is to work with UN organisations and use that channel for money.”

It comes as Pakistan’s spy chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed flew into Kabul on Saturday.

It was not clear what his agenda was, but a senior official in Pakistan said last week that Hameed, who heads the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, could help the Taliban reorganise the Afghan military.

Washington has accused Pakistan and the ISI of backing the Taliban in the group’s two-decade fight against the US-backed government in Kabul, although Islamabad has denied the charges.

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The Taliban imposed violent punishments and barred women and older girls from school and work when they were previously in power, but have sought to present a more moderate face this time.

The UN refugee agency said last week that Afghan nationals have not been fleeing in large numbers across the borders to Pakistan and Iran in the wake of the Taliban takeover on August 15, but some have crossed over indicating they intend to claim asylum.

Babar Baloch, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), speaking from Islamabad, said that the numbers leaving Afghanistan “remain small”, but gave no figures.

“So far what we have not seen is a large refugee influx,” Baloch told a Geneva news briefing.

Up to 500,000 Afghans could flee their homeland by year-end, the UNHCR said last week.

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