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EU should work to save lives, not punish asylum seekers, think tanks say

Security teams round up a total of 388 asylum seekers on a boat off Izmir's coast, while 2 others were detained over allegations of organizing the illegal crossing, in Turkey on July 27, 2021 [Turkish Coast Guard/Anadolu Agency]
Security teams round up a total of 388 asylum seekers on a boat off Izmir's coast, while 2 others were detained over allegations of organising the illegal crossing, in Turkey on July 27, 2021 [Turkish Coast Guard/Anadolu Agency]

Think tank Transnational Institute (TNI) has called on the European Union (EU) to spend its resources saving lives, instead of punishing people seeking safety on its shores.

Europe had already deported over 70,000 Afghans over the past decade and is now actively seeking to repel Afghan asylum seekers as the Taliban take command of their country.

Frontex, the European Union's border control agency, was granted a €5.6 billion ($6.6 billion) budget in 2020.

As Frontex expands to become the largest agency in the EU, billions in lucrative deals for border infrastructure are expected. Recent tenders include €50 million ($59 million) for drone surveillance services and €442 million ($524 million) for new digital infrastructure.

READ: Syrians returning home have been detained, disappeared and tortured, Amnesty says

Nick Buxton, a researcher at the TNI, said: "The Afghanistan crisis has been a moral test for European institutions, and one which they are currently failing."

"Whether it is member states pushing to continue deporting Afghans or EU statements about working with the Taliban to prevent migration flows, the EU perpetuates its policies of denying safe legal routes to desperate people, knowing that this will lead to many lost lives."

Public money is being splashed on yet more walls, weapons, and surveillance technology, where the only winners are the arms and security industry. Our resources should be going towards saving lives, not punishing people seeking safety.

Drones, biometrics systems, facial recognition, and other technologies are regularly used by Frontex in its bid to keep out migrants.

This comes as the EU has said it may work with the Taliban to keep refugees out.

Last month, six EU member states demanded deportations continue. Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany signing a letter which said that "stopping returns sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU." While senior EU diplomat Michel Barnier has announced his bid for the French presidency running on a platform that would stop immigration.

On 15 August the Taliban gained control of the Afghan capital ahead of the final withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the country after a 20-year occupation. Thousands of people have tried to flee as a result, fearing a return to the group's strict interpretation of Islamic laws and repression of women's rights.

Syrian refugees and the EU [Cartoon/Arabi21]

Syrian refugees and the EU [Cartoon/Arabi21]

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