European Commission: suspend deportations to Afghanistan, but deport Afghans to other "third countries"

A draft European Commission action plan on the response to people fleeing the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan says that an EU agreement facilitating deportations to the country is suspended - but encourages EU member states to continue deporting Afghan nationals to other third countries, where permitted by readmission agreements.


See: NOTE from: Commission Services to: Delegations: Operationalization of the Pact – Action plans for strengthening comprehensive migration partnerships with priority countries of origin and transit - Draft Action Plan responding to the events in Afghanistan (Council doc. 10472/1/21 REV 1, LIMITE, 10 September 2021, pdf)

Under the heading 'Goals for managing migration and addressing forced displacement – Lines to Take', the document says:

"Returns:

• In the current context, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly not safe and it will not be safe for the foreseeable future. The implementation of the Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation has been suspended.

• As part of a comprehensive approach and ongoing dialogues on migration, the use of third-country national readmission clauses in the readmission agreements concluded (or being negotiated) by the EU with certain transit countries should be used where the legal requirements are met."

This point about suspending the Joint Declaration is repeated in an annex, 'EU cooperation and areas of engagement under the New Pact':

"With the understanding that it is Member States who implement decisions on return, under the current circumstances, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly not safe and it will not be safe for some time. The implementation of the Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation is suspended."

This is a significant shift compared to a version of the action plan circulated as late as July, reported on previously by Statewatch, which included the objectives:

"• Reinforced dialogue sought on readmission addressing beyond the technical aspects also conditions of
return (e.g. priority areas of return and reintegration, land allocation, the provision of basis services).

• Effective implementation of the Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation (JDMC) signed on 26 April
2021 (successor of the Joint Way Forward – JWF)."

However, restarting cooperation on the basis of the Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation and other agreeements is not ruled out in the new draft of the action plan (emphasis added):

"Political engagement: The existing framework for dialogue has included the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD, 2017), the EU Strategy on Afghanistan (2017), and the Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation (JDMC, 2021), but under current circumstances these agreements are on hold until it is clear if and how the EU can engage with the new administration."

It is also clear that the European Commission has taken on board the political direction set by the Council in conclusions that were approved at its recent summit, following which the European Council on Refugees and Exiles noted that:

"The Commission generally made it clear that it does not agree with the language in the statement but it does seem to support the substance and strategy it contains.

It is promoting resettlement, which is good, but there is little attempt to provide real balance through reference to asylum in Europe. Commissioners, press spokespersons and DG Home officials’ comments focus on protection in the region, tackling smuggling, and on the overriding priority of stopping “irregular migration” from Afghanistan. As everyone knows, this is code for preventing people from reaching Europe to seek protection."

Indeed. While one objective of the July version of the action plan was to support Afghanistan in providing protection for internally displaced persons and "countering irregular migration, fighting migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, enhancing border management," the new iteration expands this objective to include Afghanistan's neighbours:

"• Building on its existing support for programmes linked to the forced displacement of Afghans in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries (particularly Iran and Pakistan), the EU will work closely with the countries in the region and transit countries hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, to reinforce their capacities to provide protection, dignified and safe reception conditions, and sustainable livelihoods.

• The EU will also cooperate with those countries to prevent irregular migration from the region, reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings."

See: NOTE from: Commission Services to: Delegations: Operationalization of the Pact – Action plans for strengthening comprehensive migration partnerships with priority countries of origin and transit - Draft Action Plan responding to the events in Afghanistan (Council doc. 10472/1/21 REV 1, LIMITE, 10 September 2021, pdf)

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