Afghan president vows economic boost to stop migrant exodus

Afghan refugees call for help after their dinghy with a broken engine startes drifting out of control between the Greek island of Lesbos and the Turkish coast.
Afghan refugees call for help after their dinghy with a broken engine startes drifting out of control between the Greek island of Lesbos and the Turkish coast.REUTERS

KABUL (AFP) - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday vowed to boost his country's fragile economy in a bid to retain some of the tens of thousands of his citizens seeking to migrate to industrialised countries in Europe and elsewhere.

"I am aware of the bad situation of Afghans in Greece, the Balkans or those seeking refuge in Australia or other countries," Ghani told Tolo News television.

After Syrians, Afghans make up the second biggest national contingent of the huge migrant influx sweeping through Europe, with more than 50,000 making the trip since the start of the year, according to the UN's refugee agency.

 

The bloody ongoing conflict stemming from the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001, corruption and the lack of economic prospects are the main factors driving Afghans to leave home.

Ghani insisted there were reasons for "hope here", pointing to agricultural projects and other initiatives to boost the economy, including the construction of the ambitious 1,800km-long TAPI gas pipeline that will eventually connect Turkmenistan to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"This will all help create jobs," Ghani said.

After a decade of growth grazing the double digits, the Afghan economy has been contracting since 2013, hampered by concerns over the election that ultimately brought Ghani to power, and the withdrawal of the bulk of Nato forces at the end of 2014.