© AP Photo/Santi Palacios
Recently, Britain's The Telegraph reported that British Interior Minister Priti Patel intends to enable border guards to prevent vessels with illegal immigrants from entering the country's territorial waters. They will be turned back towards France, which Paris certainly retaliates against, arguing that London's actions will endanger the lives of migrants.
It should be noted that the practice of turning ships back was widespread during the migration crisis of 2015. Apparently, little has changed over the past six years, and illegal migration to the British Isles through the English Channel is setting new records. According to the BBC, over the past week alone, more than 1.5 thousand people managed to cross the Channel and make it into Britain's territorial waters.
You'd think that just a while back London and Paris agreed that the British would pay France £54.2 million to set up a surveillance system and double the number of coast guard officers. Now Boris Johnson's government threatens to put this agreement to rest, as the problem of illegal migration is aggravating. We cannot say that the French are sitting on their heels: they find just under a half of illegal immigrants seeking to reach the Blighty and bring them back to the shore.
However, early September witnessed such an influx that they are still unable to cope with it properly. It is worth noting here that given the current situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban movement (banned in Russia) seized power last month, this flow is only expected to increase. According to migration experts, their number may reach about 1 million people, most of whom will rush to Central Asian neighbors of Afghanistan, as well as to prosperous Europe. It remains to be seen what London and Paris are going to do then.
Yes, Britain is ready to accept 20 thousand Afghan refugees, though no terms have been specified. France did not announce any figures, but the country's president Emmanuel Macron said Europe must protect itself from considerable waves of illegal Afghan immigrants. According to him, France protects those facing ultimate danger, but Europe won't be able to cope with the current situation's aftermath alone. The way Paris "protects" migrants is visible from its dispute with London: unhappy to accept refugees, the French are ready to shuffle off this burden on to others. Actually, this is also evident in President Macron's statements, when he says coping with the influx of migrants on one's own is impossible.
And whose help is Europe counting on, one may ask? The United States? Don't bet on it, since Washington does not care a lot about its allies and partners or Afghans who have faithfully served them for almost 20 years, as evidenced by the Americans' shameful flight from Afghanistan. Then maybe the Taliban? After all, some of these days their leaders stated their indifference to the Afghans leaving the country, for which purpose they intend to strengthen the borders of Afghanistan. According to the BBC, only traders or people with valid travel documents enjoy the right of crossing the border. But how sure are you that thousands of refugees, fearing reprisal from the Taliban, will not leave the country disguised as the same traders? And so the Europeans are left to their own devices in combating illegal migration.
Washington is at pains to narrow down its slice of responsibility for the problems encountered due to their hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, which European capitals may face either. There is nothing new about it – the ability to pass the buck is in the American genes. And by the way, Western countries do already engage in high-pitched arguments over refugee quotas. It turned out that placing even 50-60 thousand Afghans in prosperous European countries and in the United States is a severe challenge. Just that many Afghans were taken out of Kabul by all the possible air means. The remaining 140 thousand of evacuees are citizens of other states. Moreover, we note that planes belonging to the United States and other NATO countries did not take from the Afghan capital to their own countries. Airliners with Afghan refugees on board landed in Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, and Uganda, to name a few.
We emphasize that some countries of the Old World have expressed unwillingness to accept Afghan migrants, warning that the latter will induce the same problems as the Syrians did in 2015. Statements to this effect came from Austria, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, and Switzerland – they don't really want to see third-country refugees, including the Afghans. Lithuania has recently been offering resistance to refugees from Africa and Asia on the border with Belarus, building a barbed wire fence and "butting heads" with official Minsk.
Turkey is also kicking against the pricks, having rejected Washington's plans to accept Afghan migrants eager to obtain refugee status in the United States. Ankara was particularly outraged by the US State Department's statement that under the refugee admissions program for those working with US-headquartered NGOs and mass media, applications from them will be considered via US-related organizations located in third countries, including Turkey. Washington does not simply want to lead Afghan refugees to its territories point-blank.
As the latter days show, the collective West does not apparently want to look "goody-goody" anymore and abandons the humanitarian model of solving the refugee issue. At the same time, when it comes to refugees from Asian and African countries, there are fewer talk in Washington and the European capitals about Western-style democracy, with a preference to shift the solution of migration problems on to the shoulders of those allegedly responsible for them, be it Syria, Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan.
In conclusion, as reported by the UN, today there are over 82 million refugees and forcibly displaced people in the world. The coronavirus-caused global crisis only makes these figures grow. According to UN forecasts dated five years ago, by 2050 the number of migrants across the globe will exceed 320 million people. The key reasons are one and the same: conflicts, poverty, inequality, climate change, natural disasters. And no one knows ways to solve the issue of refugees and migrants. At least, no country has yet proposed any efficient measures to solve it. Maybe the current crisis related to Afghan refugees will prompt the right answer...