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'Vulnerable' Afghans should be part of EU relocation plan: Greece

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Athens (AFP)

Greece and refugee agencies on Tuesday called for the European Union to include "vulnerable" Afghans and unaccompanied minors in the EU's relocation programme.

Under the scheme some 30,000 refugees, mainly Syrian, have been moved from Greece and Italy to other parts of the EU, a figure much lower than the 160,000 originally envisaged, to help ease the migrant crisis.

Afghans currently make up the second largest asylum-seeking group in Europe, after Syrians, but have so far not been eligible for the relocation programme.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recommends certain categories, including "vulnerable Afghans" and "3,300 unaccompanied minors", should be included in the refugee programme, Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR representative in Greece, said at a press conference.

"Solidarity has to continue in the areas for vulnerable categories," he added.

At the moment, only asylum-seekers of nationalities with an average recognition rate of 75 per cent or higher are eligible for relocation in the EU -- a rate Afghans have failed to reach overall.

The UNHCR, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said "difficulties" and "resistance" from the so-called Visegrad Four -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia -- had hampered relocation efforts.

"The solidarity of Europe... is a legal obligation," Mouzalas said.

The EU signed a deal with the Afghan government in 2016 allowing member states to deport Afghans who are not granted asylum.

Many Afghans seeking asylum argue that deportation could lead to death as militant groups, including the Taliban, are still active in their country.

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