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EU ministers criticised over summit aimed at keeping Afghan refugees out

EUROPEAN ministers face criticism over a summit on Afghanistan that focused on how to keep refugees out rather than assist them.

A joint statement on the crisis released last night was almost scuppered as Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn slammed colleagues for their warped priorities. “The primary goal is to support people who are in mortal danger, who no longer live in freedom … It’s not to secure borders and to organise repatriation,” he stormed.

But Mr Asselborn agreed to withdraw his veto after EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson offered an extraordinary meeting of the High Level Resettlement Forum to look at resettling Afghan refugees later.

All 27 EU member states then stated their commitment to “act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale migration.”

EU efforts to bribe Turkey, which agreed to hold Syrian refugees in a notorious deal with Brussels in 2016, to do the same again have foundered. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the bloc to have failed to abide by the terms of the 2016 deal — which promised fast-track visas for Turkish citizens to visit the EU, and renewed talks on EU accession — and faces criticism from the opposition Republican People’s Party which says he has allowed too many foreigners in. He said last month Turkey had no obligation to act as a “warehouse” for refugees the EU casts off.

But the bloc has hopes of agreeing similar deals with Pakistan or Iran, talking of offering large sums — an anonymous official cited a figure of €1 billion (£850m) — to their governments in order to hold refugees from the Afghan war.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the EU should not make any commitments to accept specific numbers of refugees, as this might encourage them.

The French Communist Party’s Cecile Dumas said Communist mayors in the country, as well as some socialists such as Marseille Mayor Benoit Payan, had announced their determination to provide a welcome for refugees from Afghanistan, but noted the central French government would not provide any extra funding for these schemes.

She condemned President Emmanuel Macron’s government for having continued to deport refugees to Afghanistan up to June this year and said his policy was “similar to all the countries of the EU: closing borders, building walls, rejecting refugee boats in the Mediterranean, toughening asylum conditions, deporting more.”

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