Following the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) EU Council on 31 August I tweeted the following;
“As part of the follow up to the JHA Council today, I will convene a High Level Forum to discuss concrete priorities with Member States and provide sustainable solutions to those Afghans who are most vulnerable, particularly women and children, but also human rights activists, journalists, lawyers. We will cooperate together with the other global leaders on a coordinated approach to safe and legal routes for resettlement”.
Now this Thursday, 7 October, I, and the European Commission as a whole, are delivering on that commitment. The European Commission will host an EU High-level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk. Our aim is to help as many vulnerable Afghans as possible. To do that we need two elements. Firstly, we need strong political support from Member States. Secondly, we need flexibility. We need strong Member State support because every single EU Government has made laudable statements that those most at risk of Taliban persecution must be taken out of life-threatening situations. And those Governments have the capacity to turn statements into action. Thankfully, that is precisely what has happened since the shocking days of August. But the urgency remains. And that urgency must be matched with the second element, flexibility. We cannot afford to be stuck in administrative concerns when people’s very lives are at risk. Waiting until vulnerable people are in neighbouring countries will not be a quick enough salvation for those who afraid even to draw back their Kabul curtain never mind leave their front door.
So on Thursday I expect a flexible, urgent approach by Member States that increases in a short-term safe passages; but who equally engage in resettlements and humanitarian admissions.
The Forum will be co-hosted by High-Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell. It will bring together, in a virtual setting, Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Ministers of the Interior of the Member States and Associated Countries. We will have valuable contributions from the European Parliament to discuss how the EU can provide safe and legal pathways to Afghans at risk.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, both of whom remain deeply committed to vulnerable Afghans, will also participate.
It is important that we now take stock at the European level of the situation of Afghans at risk. Our biggest strength is working together, as Europeans and with our global partners. Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have announced ambitious programmes in support of Afghans.
And our capacity to work together is evident across Europe, and at many levels. There is increased community and local support, including cities, universities, judicial networks, aiming to develop specific programmes for welcoming and facilitating the integration of Afghans at risk.
The SOTEU speech by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen referenced an Afghan Support Package that would combine all EU efforts to support the Afghan people. One of its components are safe and legal pathways to protection in the EU, targeted to those most at risk, as well as targeted reception and integration measures for Afghan evacuees and newcomers.
As the follow-up to the EU Forum on Resettlement that took place in July, a number of Member States already communicated their pledges to the Commission covering wider priorities. All Member States are encouraged to commit further resettlement pledges to build capacity for emergency needs that may arise.
Humanitarian admission, including with the support of civil society organisations, of people in need of international protection, including those who are vulnerable on ideological grounds, should also be stepped up. In this context, 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, community sponsorship should be considered;
Finally, other complementary pathways (such as family reunification, student authorisations and work permits) underpinned by community sponsorship should equally be considered.
Again our capacity will be strengthened the developments at the European Asylum Support Office. Soon within its new mandate as the European Union Asylum Agency, it will be able to offer additional operational support with regard to the implementation of these safe pathways.
The commitment to protect those most at risk is a global effort and therefore the discussion will continue at Senior Officials-level in the afternoon of 7 October with our international partners, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, with a view to ensuring global coordination and stimulating cooperation on protection efforts.
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
- 3 October 2021
- Directorate-General for Communication