Afghanistan is currently experiencing one of the fastest-growing humanitarian crises in the world. Some 18.4 million people - almost half of the country’s population - currently require humanitarian assistance, while around 400,000 people have been internally displaced this year. Meanwhile, civilian casualties continue to rise; If this trend is not addressed, 2021 is likely to be the deadliest year for Afghan civilians in over a decade.

Given this rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation, RESCUE is extremely concerned that some EU member states have been pressing the EU to continue deporting Afghan people whose asylum applications have been unsuccessful. These included Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Greece. Any return at this time puts people’s lives and wellbeing in grave danger, and also goes against the Afghan Government’s July request to cease deportations to the country for at least three months.

This week, two of the six countries involved  - the Netherlands and Germany - have reversed their positions, and announced a moratorium on returns to Afghanistan. They join a group of other countries, including France, Finland, Sweden in addition to Norway and Switzerland. This is an encouraging development. However, it remains critical that all member states immediately halt deportations to the war torn country. The European Commission must not only step up and recommend that all EU countries suspend returns, but also ensure a coherent EU response in terms of both humanitarian support and migration approach.  

As part of this effort, it’s imperative that the EU border agency, Frontex, ensures the suspension of charter flights for return operations to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, EU countries should re-examine all final negative decisions for Afghan asylum seekers still present in European countries in light of the current situation and the very real risk of future persecution.  The EU must also  increase resettlement of vulnerable Afghan refugees from the region, so that people have a lifeline to safety and neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan do not shoulder the protection responsibilities alone.

In addition to urgently suspending returns, RESCUE is also calling on the EU and its member states to use their full diplomatic, political and funding power to prevent a further escalation of violence inside Afghanistan. It should push for inclusive peace negotiations and increase humanitarian assistance, not only within Afghanistan, but also to countries in the region.

Vicki Aken, RESCUEs Country Director for Afghanistan said:

“The situation is growing increasingly untenable for civilians, who are at an ever-increasing risk of being caught in the crossfire. Already this year, civilian casualties have dramatically increased, with an 80% increase in casualties compared to the first six months of 2020. Women and children are increasingly bearing the brunt of this violence; Afghanistan has been the deadliest place for children for the past six years. 

“In other words, now is not the time to even be contemplating deportation to Afghanistan. Instead, leaders should focus on doubling efforts to mitigate the humanitarian crisis that is being witnessed. They should use their power to push for peace negotiations and to increase humanitarian assistance, rather than prioritise the return of people into active conflict.”

Niamh Nic Carthaigh, RESCUEs Director of EU Policy & Advocacy, said:

“It should be unthinkable for any EU country to continue returning people back to Afghanistan - a country facing escalating conflict and humanitarian catastrophe, where their lives are clearly in grave danger. This year, the EU has boosted its aid commitment to the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan in Afghanistan by 12% in recognition of the increasingly dire situation unfolding in the country. Now it’s time for its approach to migration to follow suit. 

It is important to recognise that the vast majority of people who manage to flee conflict and persecution in Afghanistan will be hosted in neighbouring countries, such as Iran and Pakistan. The EU needs to urgently scale up refugee resettlement to support vulnerable Afghans trapped in the region, as well as making sure that the small proportion who reach Europe in search of safety are protected and their rights upheld.”


RESCUE began work in Afghanistan in 1988, launching relief programs for people displaced by the invasion of the Soviet Union. We now work with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of RESCUE staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, RESCUE: works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.