Thursday

26th May 2022

Letter

Urgent EU action needed for Afghan refugees

  • Kabul airport where people are desperate to flee the Taliban. (Photo: CNN)

The dramatic events of the last few days in Afghanistan are etched on everyone's mind. The evacuation of Europeans and their Afghan collaborators is currently a top priority and a moral imperative for all countries that have been involved in the effort in Afghanistan from afar or close by.

But also for other Afghans who are fleeing or already have fled their country, EU member states must develop a more welcoming policy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Without EU action on Afghan refugees, it is very probably more and more people will take deadly routes trying to reach Europe. (Photo: Proactiva Open Arms)

These days, the comparison with the fall of Saigon in 1975 is often made. After that lost war, Western countries took in thousands of Vietnamese boat refugees. It was the least we could do.

Something similar is now urgently needed for the Afghan refugees. Sant'Egidio proposes the following concrete actions.

Firstly, legal and safe routes must be created. We propose that European countries urgently open "humanitarian corridors" for those Afghans in need of international protection.

Together with its partners in several EU states, Sant'Egidio is ready to make its contribution in terms of reception, private sponsorship, and assistance with integration.

This follows the model of the humanitarian corridors for Syrian and Eritrean refugees that have been realised in recent years with Italy, France, and Belgium in cooperation with various, mainly faith-based, organisations.

They are a model of cooperation between governments, international organisations, and civil society for the safe and controlled reception of vulnerable people.

Secondly, European countries can also do more for Afghan refugees already on European soil.

In recent years, Afghans have formed the second largest group of asylum seekers in the European Union, after Syrians but before Venezuelans. They are often very young people, unaccompanied minors, or families with children.

It was an indication of how bad things were going in that country. Nevertheless, many saw their asylum applications rejected.

European governments have now realised, and rightly so, that sending rejected asylum seekers back to Afghanistan by force is totally out of the question under these circumstances. Given the situation, it would also be appropriate to reconsider the asylum applications of those who were rejected.

Thirdly, it is necessary to reconsider the 'third safe country' rule.

Because this principle is applied to Turkey, thousands of Afghans are stuck on the Greek islands. Their asylum applications are not even being considered.

Our volunteers who are active on Lesvos also this summer from all over the European Union can testify to the hopelessness of their situation.

We call on Greece and the other European countries to reconsider this policy in the light of the current dramatic circumstances.

In the face of this tragedy, we must not erect more barriers, but rather break them down. Let us not only look on in horror at the developments in Afghanistan, but also take action.

For 20 years, Westerners and Afghans have been trying to build a free and democratic Afghanistan. This project has failed. Let us avoid that those who believed in it pay the price.

Author bio

Jan De Volder is secretary-general of Sant'Egidio BXL Europe, a lay Catholic association dedicated to social service.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Greece dismisses EU states' objections on refugee travel

Greece reaffirmed its position that refugees should be allowed onward travel, despite objections of abuse by six EU member states. The comments come as Amnesty International releases a new report on illegal pushbacks in Greece.

Time for EU to be a real ally of Afghan women

Crises disproportionally affect girls and women because of their gender. Afghanistan is no different. The EU must ensure that feminism is at the core of its external policy.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us