High-Level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk

Tomorrow, High-Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson are convening a High-Level Forum focusing on providing protection to Afghans. The forum is a follow-up to discussions in G7 and in the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council on Afghanistan. The aim is to ensure that action of the EU and of the Member States to protect Afghans is supportive of global coordination and cooperation efforts.

The forum will bring together, in a virtual setting, Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministers of EU Member States as well as from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, representatives of the European Parliament, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, António Vitorino. In the afternoon, discussions will continue at senior officials’ level with representatives of Canada, the UK and the US.

High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said: “The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban will have far-reaching repercussions for the Afghan people and the country’s neighbours. This requires urgent responses and our full engagement. We have rapidly increased EU humanitarian aid and supported the departure of Afghans at risk in the country. Our work is not over. We stand by the Afghan people. The forum gives us another opportunity to come up with concrete actions to protect Afghans at risk, including through safe and legal pathways.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson said: “I am looking forward to tomorrow’s High-Level Forum on providing protection for Afghans at risk. It is our moral duty to help those who tried to build a more open society. Journalists, NGO staff and human rights advocates, women in particular, need our help. The Commission is ready to work on a specific Support Package for Afghans at Risk that would cover support for all steps of the pathways to protection in the EU including safe passages, legal pathways for admission and integration.” 

Safe and legal pathways to protection in the EU  

At tomorrow’s Forum, participants will discuss the current situation in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries as well as options for mobilising further support for Afghans at risk. Participants will also discuss planning for further safe and legal pathways for Afghan nationals considered most at risk in both the short and medium term, as well as reception and integration measures for Afghan evacuees.

Such measures will be part of a Support Scheme for Afghans at Risk that will be a component of the overall Afghan Support Package announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech. EU support measures for Afghans will be embedded in an overall effort to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and to support countries in the region, notably those neighbouring countries that host large numbers of migrants and refugees.

Measures that the Forum will consider will include:

  • Continuing the evacuation or safe passage of Afghans affiliated to Member States and the EU as well as people who are in a vulnerable situation such as human rights defenders, women, journalists, civil society activists, police and law enforcement officials, judges and professionals of the justice system, and their families;
  • Stepping up resettlement efforts for vulnerable Afghans displaced in the region. Member States are encouraged to commit further voluntary pledges to correspond to needs and prepare for future emergency needs that may arise;
  • Stepping up humanitarian admission for people in need of international protection. This should include community sponsorship, in view of the movements of support in a number of Member States by various communities, including that of private associations and universities, and the positive role they can play in the integration of Afghan refugees;
  • Implementing other complementary pathways, such as family reunification, student authorisations and work permits.

Support for Afghans at risk must continue after their arrival in the EU. Adequate reception conditions during the asylum procedure and support to ensure swift and successful integration into the host societies are crucial. Member States can count on EU support for the integration of newcomers.

Background

Since the start of the crisis in Afghanistan, around 22,000 Afghan nationals were evacuated to 24 EU Member States (as of August 2021).

However, almost 664,000 Afghans are newly internally displaced in the country since the beginning of the year, in addition to 3 million people already internally displaced at the end of 2020. There is a pressing need for Member States to continue to provide protection to the most vulnerable people both within Afghanistan and for Afghan nationals displaced in countries of the region.

At the G7 meeting of 24 August, Leaders agreed to cooperate on a coordinated approach to safe and legal routes for resettlement. The Commission has been engaging with international partners to this end, following up on the commitments taken at the High-Level Resettlement Forum convened by the Commission in July as well at tomorrow’s High-Level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk.

In her State of the Union speech, President Ursula von der Leyen announced €100 million as part of a new, wider Afghan Support Package, bringing the total amount of EU humanitarian support to €300 million. This comprehensive package will focus on different initiatives, notably stepping up humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable people; developing support to neighbouring countries to help create conditions to allow the displaced Afghan population to remain closer to their homes; creating safe and legal pathways to protection in the EU; and targeted reception and integration measures for Afghan evacuees.

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