Welcome back after the summer break, for this blog, and, I hope, for you and your loved ones.
For me, the summer has been quite an intense one, being ‘bookended’ by the developing situation on the Belarus border at the end of July and then the dramatic fallout from the US withdrawal from Kabul throughout August.
At the conclusion to this edition, I’ll recap the EU reactions to the aggressive actions by the Lukashenko regime but the summary is a relatively positive one: The European Union is acting uniformly, quickly and effectively.
On Afghanistan, the situation is still fluid and it has to be said, raw. But we are already seeing signs of that same spirit of EU unity. And that is essential. Because we must now prevent a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis and a migration crisis.
The European Union has already moved its staff to safety from Kabul – including locals. Member States have helped with rapid assistance in this regard. Many Member States have succeeded in moving their citizens from Afghanistan, and Afghan citizens who helped them.
I’m proud of Member States being able not only to help their own citizens but in giving international protection to thousands of Afghans, and their families, who worked with them, including authors, women’s rights defenders and journalists.
But there are now 3.5 million displaced people in Afghanistan. 80% of people recently forced to flee are women and children. Some of these people are already returning home, as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told me last week.
We must not wait until people are at the EU borders. By acting now and in a coordinated way, we can reduce risk and heartache that this perilous journey would bring.
Last Tuesday I addressed an extraordinary Council meeting of EU Home Affairs Ministers dedicated to Afghanistan. I told ministers the best way to prevent a migration crisis, is to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
President von der Leyen already announced that we will quadruple the EU Afghan aid budget to 200 million euro.
We must also continue our support for neighbouring countries, who already host nearly 2 million Afghan refugees: 1.4 million in Pakistan, 780,000 in Iran, 6,000 in Tajikistan. More than 250 million euro has already been provided to support refugees and host communities. We will continue this support.
We must fight the migrant smugglers, who will certainly try to exploit the desperate situation of people in Afghanistan. At the end of September, I will present an action plan against migrant smuggling. We will build partnerships with countries outside Europe to disrupt criminal networks and improve border management.
This action plan will be another important step forward on delivering the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
During our Council meeting, many ministers called for further progress on the pact. Also from the security perspective. My proposals on screening and Eurodac will allow for proper checks of all those arriving in the EU. Potential security threats must be detected early. The proposals are there – Member States now need to agree on them.
And Europe can agree on migration, as I said at the press conference following the Council meeting. The extraordinary Council meeting agreed in a statement on measures to protect people from the Taliban, stop Afghanistan from becoming a breeding ground for terror and to prevent a migration crisis.
As part of the follow up, I will convene a High Level Resettlement Forum at the end of September.
Because there are many people who still need protection – journalists, women’s rights defenders, Lawyers. Human Rights Activists. Especially women and girls. More than 200 Afghan women judges fear for their lives. The Taliban hate, discriminate and persecute women because they are women. We know they are capable of terrible violence and repression.
The people in need of immediate international protection must be evacuated.
We must not only work together in Europe, but also as a global community.
This need to work together informed my visit to New York and Washington last week, where I discussed common challenges on migration and security with our partners in the United Nations and US government.
Naturally, Afghanistan was high on our agenda.
There’s a lot we agree on. These meetings prepare the ground for the work that lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. And it was good to meet face to face.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Afghanistan is not the only challenge we face. Lukashenko’s regime is inviting people to come to Belarus, facilitating them in going to the border and attempting to send human beings across the EU border along the Baltic States and Poland. Out of revenge for our sanctions and to destabilise us.
And those are not his only goals, I think. There are media reports of migrants being scammed out of vast sums of money.
That amounts to state sponsored smuggling of people – with Lukashenko as smuggler in chief.
Europe is also uniting to face this challenge. I visited Lithuania at the beginning of August. And I joined an extraordinary meeting of Home Affairs ministers, called in the context of the European Council’s crisis response mechanism.
In my previous blog I outlined the action I and High Representative Borrell have been taking to protect EU borders and support Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. That includes operational and financial support and diplomatic talks with countries of origin.
These common diplomatic efforts have stopped the flights into Minsk, notably those from Baghdad. Here too, we will continue to act united.
The autumn will be an intense period. The priority is immediately reducing risk to those living in Afghanistan. But we must also provide security and certainty for European and Member State authorities - authorities, who have stepped up already in evacuating 17,500 people from Afghanistan to the EU, a majority of them Afghans.
As always though, it is our responsibility to outline that our migration proposals provide a ready-made road map for a more secure and certain future. The events of summer show, even if some may not wish to point it out, that on Migration, Member States ARE capable of rapid, effective and fair migration management policy. This impetus must continue.
This blog outlines the benefits of the proposals on migration tabled by the European Commission on 23 September 2020. For more detail on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum see below.
- Publication date
- 5 September 2021
- Directorate-General for Communication