Italy says troop pull out could spark Afghan immigrant wave

By: AFP      Published: 08:40 PM, 23 Jun, 2021
Italy says troop pull out could spark Afghan immigrant wave

Europe should brace for a large inflow of migrants from Afghanistan following the pull out of US and NATO troops, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned Wednesday. 

"It is foreseeable that the withdrawal from Afghanistan will lead to an increase in immigration from that country of an as yet unknown quantity, but we all know it will be big," he said.

"So we need even more to be all together in tackling this problem," Draghi said, calling for EU unity ahead of a June 24-25 summit in Brussels.

He urged the EU to focus on "containment" and the repatriation of illegal migrants, but also on legal migration and on aid to migrants' countries of origin.

He criticised the bloc for neglecting the issue of migration, saying that it has not formally been on the agenda of EU summits for the past three years. 

Turning to Italy -- one of the EU countries most exposed to the inflow of migrants -- Draghi called for greater national efforts on integration. 

"If we do not integrate these people in Italian society, we first of all harm ourselves... if we do not integrate them, we produce potential enemies," he said.

US and NATO troops are pulling out of Afghanistan after 20 years of war, while the Taliban has been making huge territorial gains.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have stalled, fuelling fears that the country may slide into civil war once foreign troops are gone.

Afghans already make up a sizeable share of EU asylum seekers, with 44,190 first-time applications last year, out of a total of 416,600, according to Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency. 

The largest number of first-time applications -- more than 63,000 -- came from Syria, which has also been trapped in conflict for years. 

This year, several EU countries agreed to offer asylum to Afghans who worked with foreign troops and are at risk of retaliatory attacks from the Taliban.

Italy has agreed to take in 270 people who worked with its soldiers and may accept another 400, the defence ministry said last week.