When international donors and the Afghan government convene in Brussels next week, the EU secretly plans to threaten Afghanistan with a reduction in aid if the war-torn country does not accept at least 80,000 deported asylum seekers.
According to a leaked restricted memo (pdf), the EU will make some of its aid “migration sensitive”, even while acknowledging that security in Afghanistan is worsening.
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Meanwhile, the Afghan government is also struggling with internal turmoil, and has failed to revive the economy or produce jobs for the young who leave the country in droves.
It would be challenging for Afghanistan to absorb 80,000 deportations. So far, in 2016, about 5,000 Afghans have returned voluntarily from Europe.
“This is putting unreasonable pressure on the Afghan government, which is not able to respond to such numbers,” said Timor Sharan, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Afghanistan.
Afghans make up the second largest group of migrants arriving in Europe, with 196,170 applying for asylum (pdf) last year.
At the two-day summit in Brussels, which begins on 4 October, international donors are expected to roughly match the $4bn (£3bn) annually pledged at the 2012 Tokyo conference over the next four years.
The pressure on Afghanistan is part of a broader EU strategy of making aid to poor countries conditional on them accepting deported migrants.
The best known example is the €6bn deal (£5.2bn) offered to Turkey in exchange for taking back asylum seekers and improving border controls. Other targeted countries include Niger, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Lebanon and Libya. The EU has also considered similar deals with Eritrea and Sudan, the governments of which are accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.