Asylum applications from Afghan citizens received in European Union countries soared in September, a month after the Taliban took control of the Asian country. Requests for international protection increased by 72% compared to August, to 17,277, according to a study published this Friday by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO, for its acronym in English). Afghanistan thus supersedes Syria, which for the past seven years has been, month after month, the main State of origin for applicants in Europe. The worsening of the Afghan situation, especially after the withdrawal of international troops and the taking of Kabul, has been clearly reflected in the number of requests received in recent months in the Twenty-seven, Norway and Switzerland.
In addition, in September, the total number of asylum applications in the EU returned to pre-pandemic levels for the first time. The 71,200 petitions submitted constitute the highest monthly figure since November 2016. Among them, 4,000 applications (3%) were from unaccompanied minors.
The increase in the number of applications from Afghans is partly due to evacuation operations carried out by various European countries to quickly bring their nationals and collaborators to safety. The arrival of potential refugees on planes chartered by the host States themselves facilitated the processing of applications. However, this is not the only cause behind the increase. There were also numerous applications from Afghans who “were already in transit countries” and many others “repeated in the same EU countries”, details an EASO spokesperson. “In fact, repeat requests more than doubled since August,” he adds.
This is one of the first pieces of information to shed some light on the Afghan exodus after the Taliban came to power. Last month, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned that between 4,000 and 5,000 Afghans crossed into Iran every day. To avoid the knock-on effect, the European Interior Ministers agreed at the end of August to strengthen support to neighboring countries for their reception.
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In September, requests for international protection by Afghans were double that of Syrian citizens (9,090), a country that continues at war a decade later. However, it is too early, in the opinion of Blanca Garcés, a researcher at the think tank Catalan International Documentation Center of Barcelona (Cidob), to find out if there will be a change in trend between the two countries in the coming months. “What is clear is that the EU’s position remains to close its borders to Afghans. The evacuations were a punctual and limited response; It is not going to open new safe ways to guarantee international protection ”, criticizes Garcés.