Guy Verhofstadt shames ‘passive bystander’ EU over failure to deal with Afghanistan chaos

Ian Blackford says we should replicate Syria scheme with Afghanistan

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The Belgian MEP argued the EU has once again acted as a “passive bystander” urging Brussels to open its doors to Afghan refugees. Mr Verhofstadt said: “Big questions over chaos in Afghanistan.

“One thing certain: EU is again a passive bystander while it will be essentially Europe that will deal with the fallout: offer a home for Afghans who are now most at risk & set up a common EU system to manage it.”

The comment comes as Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Tuesday that Greece does not want to become the entry point into the European Union for Afghans fleeing the escalating conflict in their homeland, as he called for a common EU response to the crisis.

Greece was on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015, when nearly a million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan landed on its islands, and like other EU member states, it is nervous that developments in Afghanistan could trigger a replay of that crisis.

“We are clearly saying that we will not and cannot be the gateway of Europe for the refugees and migrants who could try to come to the European Union,” Mitarachi told state television ERT.

“We cannot have millions of people leaving Afghanistan and coming to the European Union … and certainly not through Greece,” he said.

EU foreign ministers will hold a crisis meeting on Tuesday to discuss the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and Greece has requested that the issue is also discussed at a meeting of EU home affairs ministers on Wednesday.

“The solution needs to be common, and it needs to be a European solution,” Mitarachi said. Unity between EU member states over whether to deport failed Afghan asylum-seekers crumbled last week.

Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan resumed on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.

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The number of civilians had thinned out, a Western security official at the airport told Reuters, a day after chaotic scenes in which US troops fired to disperse crowds and people clung to a U.S. military transport plane as it taxied for take-off.

“Runway in Kabul international airport is open. I see aeroplanes landing and taking off,” Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s civilian representative, said on Twitter.

By afternoon, at least 12 military flights had taken off, a diplomat at the airport said. Planes were due to arrive from countries including Australia and Poland to pick up their nationals and Afghan colleagues.

Under a US troops withdrawal pact struck last year, the Taliban agreed not to attack foreign forces as they leave.

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US forces took charge of the airport — their only way to fly out of Afghanistan — on Sunday, as the militants wound up a week of rapid advances by taking over Kabul without a fight, 20 years after they were ousted by a US-led invasion.

Flights were suspended for much of Monday, when at least five people were killed, witnesses said, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede.

Media reported two people fell to their deaths from the underside of a U.S. military aircraft after it took off.

US troops killed two gunmen who appeared to have fired into the crowd at the airport, a US official said.

US President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw US forces after 20 years of war – the nation’s longest – which he described as costing more than $1 trillion.

But a video of hundreds of desperate Afghans trying to clamber onto a US military plane as it was about to take off could haunt the United States, just as a photograph in 1975 of people trying to get on a helicopter on a roof in Saigon became emblematic of the humiliating withdrawal from Vietnam.

Biden said he had to decide between asking US forces to fight endlessly or follow through on a withdrawal agreement negotiated by his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said.

“After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces.

“That’s why we’re still there.”

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