EU asylum demands up as more Afghans flee

File photo. A group of Afghan and Iranian refugees wait for food next to the abandoned barns in Tatvan district, in Bitlis city, eastern province of Turkey, 2 June 2021. According to smugglers epa spoke to, migrants arrive at the Turkish border after walking in rugged Iranian mountains for days. [EPA-EFE/SEDAT SUNA]

Requests for asylum in Europe hit a five-year high in September, with Afghans in particular seeking safety after the Taliban stormed to power in Kabul.

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which keeps figures for the 27 EU member states plus Norway and Switzerland, said 71,200 requests had been made.

This was the highest monthly level since November 2016 and came as the number of Afghans among the arrivals jumped by 72% in just a month.

In August, the hardline Islamist Taliban movement seized the Afghan capital and control of the whole country after a 20-year war against the former US-backed regime.

Fighting has subsided, but the country is facing its worst drought in two decades and millions face what US agencies dub one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.

The numbers of Afghans reaching Europe rose from 10,000 in August to 17,300 in September.

The other main countries of origin of applicants are Syria with 9,100, Turkey on 3,000 and Iraq with 2,900 — many of them among the migrants arriving over the Belarus border.

Brussels accuses Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko of channelling would-be refugees towards his borders with Poland and Lithuania in a destabilising “hybrid attack”.

Minsk denies this, but Poland has deployed police and razor wire and the European Union has imposed sanctions on Belarus’ officers, airline and travel agencies.

Not all asylum applications are successful. In September, the number of arrivals granted refugee or protected status rose to 41%, the highest since April last year.

Those most likely to be granted asylum were Afghans on 86%, Syrians on 87%, Belarussians on 85% and Eritreans at 81%.

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