As humanitarian needs in Afghanistan continue to escalate, we appeal to the EU to place protection at the centre of its response. We are disappointed by the absence of leadership at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 31 August and Interior Ministers’ continued focus on preventing people from arriving in the EU, instead of providing pathways to protection. While the majority of Afghan refugees will seek safety in the region, the EU should be sharing, rather than shirking, the responsibility to offer them protection. Ahead of the Resettlement Forum currently planned for early October, we call on EU states to expand safe pathways for people in need of protection, including through an ambitious and additional resettlement programme for Afghan refugees and a flexible use of other available pathways to safety.

18 million people are now in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan – nearly half of the population. So far this year, over 630,000 people have been internally displaced due to violence and drought, while many people at immediate risk of persecution have been unable to leave the country. In addition to scaling up funding towards the humanitarian response, ensuring pathways to protection for the people of Afghanistan must also be Europe’s priority now.

In recent weeks, European citizens, cities and civil society have led the way in showing their solidarity with Afghan refugees and their willingness to host and welcome those in need. Several countries, too, have announced or called for ambitious resettlement places. By contrast, we regret the misleading and alarmist rhetoric expressed by some European leaders in the past weeks, which diverts attention from people’s acute protection needs, may raise barriers to refugees’ integration and inclusion in European societies, and stokes fears about a non-existent crisis at Europe’s borders. This is a crucial moment for the EU to live up to its commitments to refugee protection and humanitarian leadership. We call on the EU and EU member states to:

1. Make concrete commitments towards a significantly expanded refugee resettlement scheme at the upcoming Resettlement Forum. 

We welcome the Commission’s decision to host a Resettlement Forum in the coming weeks: this must now lead to concrete, ambitious pledges. Expanded resettlement would provide a lifeline for vulnerable refugees, display solidarity with host countries, and encourage strengthened protection in the region.

2. Leverage all available pathways to secure Afghan refugees’ urgent access to protection.

Beyond expanding refugee resettlement to provide a durable solution to refugees, EU countries should use all available options to immediately bring people in need of protection to safety from Afghanistan and neighbouring states, with predictable and secure protection upon arrival. States should:

3. Uphold access to a fair and full asylum process for Afghan and other nationals in Europe, while supporting their inclusion, integration, and participation in society. 

Expanded pathways to protection cannot in any way replace the right to asylum for those arriving in Europe through other means. EU member states must ensure that people have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures within the EU’s territory, including adequate reception conditions. The Refugee Convention and the principle of non-refoulement must be fully respected.