Two years since the regime change in Afghanistan, 29.2 million people, almost 70% of the population, remain in need of assistance, of which 15.3 million Afghans are projected to be acutely food insecure as a result of the devastating impacts of climate change, economic collapse and decades of conflict. In April 2023, around 17.2 million people in Afghanistan were experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity, however sustained humanitarian assistance has effectively reduced the total number of food insecure people in Afghanistan. Continued support is needed to halt the deepening and widening of Afghanistan’s protracted food crisis.

Yet, while more than 250,000 Afghan refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in 2023, only 329 have been resettled in the EU since 2021 - to only four countries, according to UNHCR data.

Last year, EU states resettled just a quarter of the 1,111 Afghans they had collectively pledged to welcome via this route. This slow progress also makes it unlikely that the EU will reach the UN’s target of resettling 42,500 Afghans by 2026.

Resettlement is just one of the few safe and legal routes through which vulnerable refugees can reach the EU. Since the shift in power in Afghanistan in 2021, the EU has welcomed about 45,000 Afghans through a number of schemes – most through emergency evacuations following the regime change. Yet beyond this initial response, the EU has failed to transition towards sustainable resettlement and other humanitarian admission programmes from the region.

As outlined in our recent report Two years on: Afghans still lack pathways to safety in the EU, this lack of EU support has left thousands of Afghans stuck in limbo in the region – struggling to access the few safe routes that may be available due to a lack of transparent information, narrow eligibility criteria, and often insurmountable requirements to prove their identity and vulnerability. For many, this leaves them with no other choice than embark on dangerous journeys in search of safety. Those who are able to reach Europe often report pushbacks, face barriers to full and fair asylum procedures, or are forced to spend months or years in prison-like conditions, taking a devastating toll on their mental health.

While more than 2 million refugees globally are in need of protection, so far this year the EU has resettled a total of just 968 people – the majority from Syria, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. Last year, EU states collectively resettled a total of 16,695 refugees, accounting for just 1.1% of global needs - well below their target to welcome 20,000 people via this route.

At the end of this year, the second-ever Global Refugee Forum will be held. This provides a crucial opportunity for the EU’s member states to show strong humanitarian leadership and solidarity, through presenting ambitious, multi-year resettlement pledges that match rising global needs.  The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling on the EU to collectively commit to resettle at least 44,000 refugees in 2024 and 48,000 refugees in 2025. Additionally, they must also commit to meet UNHCR’s calls for EU states to resettle at least 42,500 Afghan refugees by 2026.

Harlem Desir, IRC’s Senior Vice President, Europe, says:

“Two years since regime change in Afghanistan and as humanitarian needs in the country continue to soar, the EU has only welcomed  329 Afghans through refugee resettlement, one of the few safe and legal routes through which refugees can join the EU - and to only four member states.

"Many of the schemes that have been established by states such as Germany, Italy and Ireland intended to bring Afghans to safety are yet to materialise to scale, leaving thousands of people stuck in limbo. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of people seeking to reach Europe via the Balkan route are from Afghanistan. The absence of safe pathways only drives people to take greater risks in search of protection.

"It is vital that leaders pledge to bring at least 44,000 refugees to Europe through this scheme in 2024. They need to immediately ramp up resettlement of Afghans if they are to come anywhere close to reaching UNHCR’s target of resettling 42,500 Afghans by 2026 – a figure that is perfectly achievable, and in line with the EU’s values and capacity to welcome.”

The latest available data from UNHCR shows that 329 Afghan refugees have been resettled in the EU since 2021 -  296 to Sweden, 21 to Finland, 9 to Spain, and 3 to France. Data may change retroactively due to the inclusion of previously unavailable data.