The situation in Afghanistan: Next steps for the EU
The situation in Afghanistan: Next steps for the EU
The EU must take urgent steps to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, save and protect the lives of Afghan people, and condemn the increasing violations of international humanitarian law.
By working together with the Member States, the European Commission, and the Council, the EU must ensure immediate evacuation and protection of those at risk of persecution. Further, the EU must provide support to refugees in neighbouring countries, globally coordinate resettlement, ensure access to protection for refugees, and provide humanitarian assistance for those in need in and around Afghanistan.
Context and background
In the past weeks, horrific scenes followed the Taliban seizure of power in Afghanistan to the detriment of the Afghan government. Internal displacement, deadly chaos at airports and checkpoints, violence and lawlessness keep the whole country in a state of shock.
As Afghanistan lures towards an uncertain future, it requires the EU to protect Afghan civilians at risk including: women and girls, local interpreters, embassy staff, employees of foreign-funded and domestic civil society groups, human rights activists and defenders, especially those who focus on the rights of women who are in a more vulnerable position in this context, journalists, academics, and writers, as well as their families. Ethnic minorities and Shiite Muslims are also people at risk. The country’s uncertain future creates thousands of internally displaced people and large numbers of refugees, beyond the UN’s estimation of 250,000 Afghan refugees, who have already fled their homes since last May.
Our key demands
The EU and its Member States urgently need to ensure a coordinated approach in cooperation with NATO in order to:
- Ensure the swift evacuation of people at risk and their families, local interpreters, embassy staff, employees of foreign-funded and domestic civil society groups, human and women rights activists and defenders, journalists, academics, and writers, as well as their families; and ensure safe pathway to airports where evacuations take place.
- Provide support for refugees in neighbouring countries through humanitarian and development aid. Countries around Afghanistan will have to cope with a large number of refugees. We call on the EU to increase humanitarian assistance to neighbouring countries, in order to assist them with refugee reception and ensure that refugees have access to basic needs, as well as education and healthcare. At the same time, the pandemic may also act as a threat multiplier and exacerbate the already precarious conditions of Afghans refugees. As such, we call on the EU to integrate COVID-19 specific provisions in its humanitarian funds, such as access to information about COVID-19 to the displaced population and mainstreaming the supply of PPEs.
- Set up global coordination on resettlement. We call for global cooperation and coordination among countries, through an international pledging conference on resettlement organised by the UNHCR. Following the example set up by Canada and the UK, who have already pledged to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, we call on the EU to set up an ambitious pledge for 2021. The EU’s welcoming municipalities should participate and be able to pledge based on their capacity and will.
- Ensure access to protection for refugees at the EU borders and beyond through safe pathways. The instability in Afghanistan might lead to increased arrivals of Afghans at the EU’s borders. To prevent people from taking irregular and dangerous routes, and ensure that other safe pathways are developed beyond resettlement, Member States should issue humanitarian visas to Afghans at risk. To facilitate safe access to asylum, Member States should consider allowing applications for international protection before embassies and consulates.
If arrivals occur in large numbers, the European Union can trigger Temporary Protection Directive, which would provide a prima facie group protection status to Afghan applicants.
- Immediately cease forced returns to Afghanistan, as Afghanistan is clearly not a safe country to return to and will likely not be one for many years to come. The EU should urge the Member States to end this practice.
- Provide humanitarian assistance, particularly for internally displaced persons. We call on the EU and Member States to establish a coordinated approach for the provision of humanitarian assistance to civil society organisations in Afghanistan and all actors in the neighbouring countries to promote human rights needs and preserve the achievements of the last 20 years. Development and humanitarian aid should be conditional on respect of human rights, including women’s rights, and the respect of minorities.
- Protect women and girls and promote human and women's rights. We need to ensure that women and girls keep access to basic rights, including access to education, health, freedom of movement, work and political and social participation. We call for the establishment of a human rights monitoring mechanism under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Office, building on the already existing mission of the UN in Afghanistan, with a clear mandate to assess and monitor the situation on the ground. The EU and its Member States should support the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in protecting and restoring gender equality and human rights.