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An Afghan boy walks with a U.S. service member as he and his family are led through Dulles International Airport in D.C. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Thousands of Afghans are waiting at U.S. bases in Germany, Italy and Spain — and those countries want to know they will end up in the U.S. before they commit to resettling additional Afghan refugees.

The big picture: EU leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the migrant crisis ignited by the Syrian civil war, which drove a record 1.3 million people to seek asylum in Europe in 2015 alone.

"They really have a lot of concerns," European Commissioner of Home Affairs Ylva Johansson told Axios in an interview. "First they would like to know if these people they are hosting really will go to the U.S. before they answer me on how much they can do," Johansson said.

By the numbers: As of Friday morning, there were approximately 21,300 Afghan evacuees in the U.S. European Command region, EUCOM spokesperson Chuck Prichard told Axios.

  • 17,000 were at U.S. military sites in Germany, 2,500 were in Italy and 1,800 were in Spain, although the numbers fluctuate daily.
  • Evacuees are staying for only a few days before heading to the U.S., Prichard said.
  • State Department spokesman Ned Price on Thursday declined to say what would happen to Afghan evacuees in third countries who failed the security vetting process to enter the U.S.

What they're saying: Johansson said that before considering the EU's role in resettling large numbers of Afghan refugees, Brussels had to focus first on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and then on helping neighboring countries to manage the influx.

  • She also said member states need to be proactive in resettling the most vulnerable Afghans, rather than waiting for them to show up at the border.
  • "As a feminist, it's important for me that we don't wait until we have a lot of people smuggled to the European border, because we know by experience that that's 90% men. And those most at risk are women and girls," Johansson said.

Context: The political backlash from the 2015 crisis resulted in a mainstreaming of immigration rhetoric historically associated with far-right parties, many of which saw unprecedented gains in the years that followed.

  • In an emergency joint statement this week, ministers from all 27 member states stressed the need to avoid "the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration."
  • Physical border fences, which the EU's top executive once said have "no place in Europe," have now cropped up in Poland, Lithuania and Greece with the tacit approval of the bloc's leaders.

"In some cases, physical barriers or fences are needed," Johansson, a member of the progressive Social Democrats in her native Sweden, told Axios. "Member states are obliged to protect their external borders for unauthorized entry."

  • "I don't want to have a 'Fortress Europe,'" she stressed. "And that's why we should not wait until we have migrants at our external borders. That's why we need to reach out much, much earlier."

Go deeper

U.S.-Mexico border patrol arrests reach all-time high

Migrants attempting to cross in to the U.S. from Mexico are detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Photo: Nick Ut/Getty Images

Border patrol made nearly 1.7 million arrests of immigrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2021 — the highest number on record, according to new agency data released on Friday.

Why it matters: Unauthorized crossings are beginning to decline, but still remain far above the usual numbers this time of year. The administration is also tracking other large groups of migrants headed toward the U.S.

Biden rejects Trump's latest executive privilege claims

Photo: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Monday rejected two more of former President Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot requested, CNN first reported.

Why it matters: Trump's legal team is seeking to block some of the panel's requests for records by invoking executive privilege, which can allow presidents and their aides to sidestep congressional scrutiny. The Biden administration has maintained that it will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Amazon warehouse workers in New York file petition to hold unionization vote

Amazon workers and their supporters rally outside the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Brooklyn, New York City, after filing a petition requesting an election to form a union. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers in New York City filed a petition on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote on unionization.

Why it matters: The move comes six months after an organizing effort was defeated at Amazon's distribution center in Alabama.