Afghanistan: “EU needs to resettle people under immediate threat”
Wednesday, 18 August 2021
Kabul airport, credit: Belga
The interior ministers in the EU member states discussed the latest development in Afghanistan at an extraordinary meeting today.
The meeting was convened by the Slovenian EU presidency at the request of Lithuania and organised within the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR). The meeting was originally supposed to focus on the Belarus border situation with Lithuania and to discuss actions to safeguard the integrity and security of this part of EU’s external border.
The ministers expressed solidarity with the affected states, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. “Due to the rapidly changing situation on the ground, Lithuania needs additional assistance, as do Latvia and Poland,” said Slovenian Interior Minister Ales Hojs who chaired the meeting.
However, the situation at the border between Belarus and Lithuania was overshadowed by the unfolding events in Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul and the Taliban takeover of power. High Representative JosepBorrell joined the meeting to brief the interior ministers of his assessmentof the situation in Afghanistan with a focus on the political, humanitarian and migration aspects.
By now EU and probably all member states have evacuated their own embassy staff but, in most cases, local staff have been left behind. With every day passing, it becomes more difficult for them travel to the airports still protected by US troops in Afghanistan for safe transport out from the country.
Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said in a statement after the meeting that EU needs to evacuate both EU staff and local staff. She also included journalists and human rights defenders, especially women, among those under immediate threat. “We need to help them to resettle in the EU,” she said.
The Sweden, her own home country, has at the time of writing (Wednesday evening) not yet managed to evacuate the local staff who worked at its embassy or the more than 300 local staff who worked for its troops in Afghanistan in the past. The Swedish foreign minister said today that she hopes that it will be possible to evacuate them by Friday.
Due to the security situation in Afghanistan, the European Commission is not sharing any figures on the number of people who need to be evacuated.
As regards Afghan migrants already in the EU and whose asylum applications have been rejected, the Commissioner said that it is impossible to resend them to Afghanistan. “It’s not safe there.”
EU also needs to avoid a migratory crisis, she said. Displaced people inside Afghanistan should be able to return to their homes and not try to embark on dangerous and illegal routes to EU and other countries.