On 31 August the Slovenian Presidency convened an extraordinary meeting of the Home Affairs Ministers on the situation on Afghanistan. The next day, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) organised a hearing to discuss the situation in the country and the EU’s response.

Following their meeting, EU Home Affairs Ministers issued a statement that neither included concrete suggestions on how access to asylum for Afghans in Europe will be ensured nor any commitments to expand pathways for protection, including via resettlement. Instead, it focused on expanding cooperation with third countries to “to prevent illegal migration from the region, reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings”. Attempts by some Member States to improve the focus of the statement and the language used largely failed. Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson welcomed the statement, saying it demonstrated that EU Member States can agree on migration issues.

At the LIBE Committee the following day, MEPs from a range of political groups denounced the statement and proposed alternatives.  ECRE Director Catherine Woollard commented that “the hysterical and alarmist rhetoric from some Ministers of Interior is problematic” and argued that “it may be better to have no statement than a statement of that type”. She outlined the need for a strong, alternative and calm EU response along the lines of the five priorities outlined in a joint NGO statement, which recommends that the EU and European countries should focus on:

  • Evacuation, resettlement and other safe routes to protection: evacuate as many people facing immediate security and safety risks as possible as quickly as possible
  • Humanitarian assistance: scale up the provision of humanitarian assistance
  • Re-establish security for the people of Afghanistan: use the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and other EU external action, including diplomatic efforts, civilian crisis management, sanctions and other operational tools to support security for Afghans and international peace negotiations
  • Access to asylum in Europe: ensure rapid access to fair asylum procedures; preparations should be made in Europe now
  • Suspending deportations to Afghanistan: halt deportations to Afghanistan

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Photo: by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.