A Taliban spokesman has told an Austrian newspaper that the Taliban would accept any Afghan migrants whose asylum requests in Europe were rejected. Those with a criminal record would then face court in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Austria's interior minister is still in favor of deporting migrants with a criminal record.
In an article published on Monday (August 30), Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung that the Taliban government would be willing to accept Europe's Afghan deportees -- failed asylum seekers who may also have a criminal record.
"Yes. They would be taken to court. The court would then have to decide how to proceed with them," Zabihullah told the newspaper when asked if it would take in Afghan asylum seekers in Germany or Austria whose asylum claims had been rejected or who had committed crimes in those EU countries.
The Taliban spokesman did not go into any detail on why they should be taken to court or what sentence they might face, Reuters reports. He also repeated his government's promise to respect the rights of women within the framework of Sharia, or Islamic law.
"We will secure all rights that women are entitled to under Sharia," Zabihullah said. "We will grant women Islamic rights, enable education and create frame conditions for work. We are in the process of putting all that in place."
In the past weeks, many women in Afghanistan and women's rights activists have expressed concerns about Afghan women losing their fundamental rights under the Taliban rule.
Austria's hard line on refugees
Austria's conservative-led government is maintaining its hard line on Afghan asylum seekers and refugees within the European Union, even after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan.
Initially, the EU country's interior minister, Karl Nehammer, said Austria should keep deporting rejected asylum seekers back to Afghanistan for as long as possible.
Nehammer has since admitted this is no longer feasible, news agency Reuters reported. Yet on August 18, three days after the Taliban took over Kabul, he tweeted it still needed to be "possible to deport violent migrants." In the same tweet, he advocated for setting up "deportation centers" in neighboring countries that would take the deportees in.
While Austria's head of state said the EU should offer shelter to more Afghan refugees, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz ruled out taking in people fleeing Afghanistan. Political debates in Brussels and Berlin reflect the same friction.
The political debate on deportations to Afghanistan has been raging in Austria before the takeover by the Taliban, though. At its center was the brutal murder of a 13-year-old girl in Austria that happened in June. Rights groups have accused Kurz' government of instrumentalizing the crime.
In early August, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) blocked Austriaꞌs immediate deportation of an Afghan whose application for asylum was turned down. Austrian government officials said they would obey the court's decision, which asked the country to delay his return to Afghanistan until August 31. However, the situation in Afghanistan has changed since the ruling.