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How will Europe decide on Afghan refugee policy?

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By Jack Parrock
Demonstrations to show solidarity with Afghan refugees, Berlin/Germany, 17 Aug 2021
Demonstrations to show solidarity with Afghan refugees, Berlin/Germany, 17 Aug 2021   -   Copyright  AP

Two planes on Monday landed in Melsbroek airbase in Belgium, carrying 226 people who were evacuated from Afghanistan. Returnees, a mix of Belgian nationals and those to whom it owes protection, were among some of the 400 people Belgium had to transfer to Islamabad as part of the evacuation process.

An airbase outside Brussels received Belgium’s first evacuation flight from Afghanistan via Islamabad on Monday. The Foreign Minister said 400 people have already been moved from Kabul to Pakistan under the Belgian evacuation operation.

Posted by Euronews English on Monday, August 23, 2021

The orderly disembarkation at the airbase was in stark contrast to the scenes of chaos at Kabul airport which continued throughout the weekend.

With arrivals happening across the European Union, NGOs are warning politicians to provide safe humanitarian routes to everyone.

Catherine Woollard, Director of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said the EU is doing well on evacuating and providing safe routes for people who've worked for the international community. She also warns that "on the other hand that has to be balanced by offering access to asylum for those who arrive under their own steam."

But those Afghans fleeing the Taliban will not be welcomed with open arms in all parts of Europe.

The Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, currently in charge of the EU's rotating presidency, tweeted over the weekend to say:

"It is not the duty of the #EU or #Slovenia to help everyone on the planet who is fleeing, instead of fighting for their homeland."

Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz also said they will not take anyone in.

"We have taken in over 40,000 Afghans in Austria in the last few years and beyond. We are one of the countries with the largest Afghan community," Kurz told Austrian broadcaster Puls24 in an interview released on Sunday.

EU high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell has suggested using an obscure EU mechanism to provide temporary protection.

While Afghan arrivals into Europe could become a political hot potato for the EU, migration NGOs believe 90 per cent of the people who flee will actually be harboured in countries neighbouring Afghanistan.

Watch the report in the media player above.