The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) Europe has joined a coalition of over 50 European NGOs working on asylum and migration and Afghan Diaspora organizations in Europe in signing the joint statement “Current priorities for an EU response to the situation in Afghanistan”. The statement was released on 25 August, just as a large-scale humanitarian and protection crisis unfolds following the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan.
The statement affirms the signatories’ commitment to the welfare of the Afghan people, including those within Afghanistan and those seeking protection in the region and beyond. It notes how “the vast majority of displaced Afghans will likely be hosted in the neighboring countries,” particularly in Iran and Pakistan, and references the significant protection needs of the approximately 5.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Afghanistan. In the context of the European Union (EU), the statement outlines how “it is crucial that the small proportion of displaced people who do arrive in Europe are given rapid access to a fair asylum procedure.”
The statement recommends five urgent responses for the EU and European countries.
Evacuation, resettlement, and other safe routes to protection for Afghans
The statement calls for the immediate evacuation of “as many as possible of the people facing immediate security risks, as quickly as possible.” A subsequent expansion of resettlement and complementary pathways should focus particularly on women, girls, and vulnerable minorities, in addition to at-risk groups such as journalists and human rights defenders. The statement also recommends using the “untapped potential” of family reunification to meet emergency needs through widened family definitions.
Scale-up of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and neighboring countries
International organizations in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries have called for a rapid scale-up of humanitarian assistance activities in the region. The organizations urge the EU to ensure that humanitarian access to Afghanistan be preserved through negotiations and responses. They particularly urge the EU to prioritize services for women and girls, made available through female aid workers able to access communities and create safe spaces.
Reestablish security for the people of Afghanistan
The statement also calls on the EU to “support engagement of all relevant international actors […] in efforts to stabilize the situation” in Afghanistan. It urges the EU to engage in dialogue with all parties when it is in the interests of the people of Afghanistan. “The security of Afghans and protection of civilians […] and peace […] should be prioritized over counter-terrorism, anti-migration or otherwise narrowly defined European interests,” the statement urges.
Ensure access to asylum in Europe
Underlining the manageable number of Afghan refugees likely to seek protection in Europe, the statement emphasizes European countries’ legal obligations to ensure access to a fair asylum procedure. It sets out immediate actions that EU member states should adopt, such as stopping pushbacks and collective expulsions at European borders. It also asks authorities to reexamine Afghan asylum cases that have already been decided on in light of the dramatic change in Afghanistan. The statement condemns “the insular approach of certain European politicians who seek to make the situation about “us,” Europe […] rather than keeping the focus on the security and humanitarian needs of Afghans.”
Suspend deportations to Afghanistan
Deportations to Afghanistan were unsafe before the current situation and are more so now. The statement calls for a review of cases where human rights concerns would prevent deportation, and for the use of “alternatives to deportation and related detention,” which would include issuing legal statuses and the right to remain in the EU for Afghan refugees.