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BRUSSELS - The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has stoked fears of an exodus of Afghans and a repeat of Europe's 2015/16 migration crisis, when more than a million people from the Middle East fled to the continent and resettled there.
Thousands of Afghans have already left or are desperately trying to get on planes leaving Kabul, fearing a return to the austere interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) imposed during the previous Taliban rule that ended 20 years ago.
WILL THERE BE A MASS EXODUS FROM AFGHANISTAN?
Fear of harsh sharia is not the only reason why Afghans might flee. Violence, drought and COVID-19 have already left millions of Afghans in need of humanitarian aid, and many of them could become economic migrants in the months ahead.
The Taliban have closed key border points and there has been a "very limited" number of Afghans crossing frontiers, but the European Union says it expects "increased migratory pressure" in the longer run due to instability under Taliban rule.
The U.N.'s refugee agency says more than 550,000 Afghans have been uprooted internally since January due to the worsening security situation, and the European Union has urged member states to ramp up admission quotas for Afghans in need of protection, particularly for women and girls.
Britain has said it will welcome up to 5,000 Afghans during the first year of a new resettlement programme, prioritising women, girls and minorities, and up to 20,000 in the long term.
WILL EUROPE'S DOORS BE AS OPEN AS THEY WERE IN 2015?
In short, no.
Germany opened its borders in 2015/16 to Syrians and others fleeing war and poverty, a move that won Chancellor Angela Merkel plaudits abroad but hurt her politically at home.
Merkel plans to step down after a Sept. 26 federal election so will no longer call the shots. In any case, she now says refugees should be guaranteed safety in countries neighbouring Afghanistan before the EU considers taking people in.
Pakistan is already home to 1.4 million Afghan refugees, while Iran hosts nearly a million, according to U.N. refugee agency data from early 2021. The number of undocumented Afghans in both countries is estimated to be much higher.
Other EU countries are determined to avert a re-run of 2015/16, partly due fears of a voter backlash.
Austria has suggested setting up "deportation centres" for rejected Afghan migrants and was one of six EU nations that warned last week against halting the deportation of Afghans denied asylum in the bloc. Since then, three of the six - Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands - have reversed course.
Greece's border forces are on alert to avoid a repeat of the mass arrivals of Syrian migrants via Turkey in 2015, and has in the recent past stopped people entering its waters, though it denies any illegal "pushbacks".