• More than 1.6 million Afghans have arrived in neighbouring countries - 99% to Iran and Pakistan - since August 2021, and Afghans now represent the third largest refugee population globally.

  • EU states resettled just 271 Afghan refugees in 2022, just 0.1% of the more than 270,000 Afghans currently being in need of resettlement.

  • So far not a single person has arrived under a German scheme established last Oct to welcome 1,000 Afghans/month. Italy announced a programme in November 2021 to welcome 1,200 Afghans at risk - only half this number have arrived.

  • Some EU states committed to welcome as few as 15 or 20 Afghans over two years, while at least nine EU states have not made any pledges at all.

  • People from Afghanistan are most frequently reported to be victims of pushbacks at Europe’s borders, amounting to 40% of the pushbacks recorded in 2021.

  • Many Afghans remain trapped in remote and prison-like facilities on Greek islands preventing inclusion into local communities and devastating their mental health. 92% of Afghans supported by IRC experienced anxiety and 86% of depression.

  • The percentage of positive asylum requests for Afghans has fallen from 66% in 2021 to 54% in 2022 in the EU, Norway and Switzerland.

New research from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) reveals that EU states have consistently neglected the needs of Afghans seeking protection - leaving millions stranded in Afghanistan or neighbouring countries, and failing to provide adequate safety and inclusion for the small proportion who manage to reach Europe.

Since 2021, around 41,500 Afghans at risk have reportedly been admitted to the EU through humanitarian admissions, including through emergency evacuations in August 2021. However, this figure is vastly outpaced by rising needs. The IRC’s new report, Two years on: Afghans still lack pathways to safety in the EU, highlights how many of the schemes set up to bring Afghans to safety in Europe are falling short of their targets.

The thousands of Afghans let down by these schemes face huge obstacles in reaching lasting protection in the EU. These include a lack of transparent information on the safe pathways available, narrow eligibility criteria, often insurmountable requirements to prove their identity and vulnerability, and difficulties in physically leaving Afghanistan or neighbouring countries. As a result, millions remain trapped in limbo in the region or at Europe’s borders - with some being driven onto treacherous journeys in search of safety and protection.

The new report sets out a roadmap to overcome these immediate challenges, and put in place a sustainable, longer-term plan for Europe to welcome Afghans at risk. 

The IRC is calling on the EU and its member states to urgently:

  1. Scale up safe routes to protection, first, by expanding refugee resettlement - EU states should resettle more than 42,500 Afghan refugees over the coming five years - and second, by establishing more safe routes and scaling up those currently in place.
  2. Ensure access to asylum, dignified reception and lasting support for asylum seekers and refugees in Europe, regardless of where they are from or how they arrive.
  3. Draw lessons from the response to this crisis, including establishing an emergency response mechanism to trigger and coordinate EU efforts on safe and regular routes to protection in response to future emergencies.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, says:

“This report highlights staggering neglect of Afghans by the member states of the European Union, which puts them at risk at every step of their journeys in search of protection. While some states’ well-intentioned plans to bring Afghans to safety have hit repeated delays and obstacles, other countries have failed to make any pledges at all, or to guarantee adequate protection and inclusion for the tiny proportion of Afghan refugees who manage to reach Europe.

"This August will mark two years since the shift in power in Afghanistan. If EU states are serious about protecting Afghans, they need to urgently scale up safe pathways to Europe, and receive all Afghans seeking protection with dignity regardless of how they arrive on its territory. The EU’s response to more than 8 million people fleeing Ukraine proves that Europe is capable of welcoming refugees in a humane, dignified way. There is simply no excuse for treating Afghans, and refugees forced from their homes elsewhere, any differently. This report provides a concrete roadmap for how Europe can make this a reality and provide a lifeline to thousands of Afghans, in step with its own values and its true capacity to welcome.”

Laura Kyrke-Smith, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee UK, says:

“Across the world, countries have failed Afghans in need and at risk. Sadly, the failures this report highlights are not limited to the EU. 

While the UK rightfully offered evacuation and protection to many Afghans during August 2021, its resettlement schemes have not delivered protection at scale since.

Under the UK's main scheme for at-risk and vulnerable Afghans, the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), just 281 people arrived in the UK in the year ending March 2023. This is despite the UK originally promising to resettle 20,000 Afghans. The Scheme has been slow, unambitious, and inconsistent. 

Almost two years since the fall of Kabul, it is critical the UK lives up to its promises to the people of Afghanistan, swiftly deliver places on the ACRS and addresses inconsistencies across the Scheme, ensuring that all Afghan refugees have equal access to refugee family reunion rights.”

Zahra*, aged 60, from Afghanistan and currently living in Germany:

“I had high hopes for my asylum procedure, but it took me two and a half years to get a positive answer… Waiting for an answer was a very difficult and anxious time for me, as I was without my two children in this foreign country whose culture I did not know. I had no choice but to wait and hope that one day I would be able to offer my children a safe life here. Unfortunately, my wish has not yet been fulfilled, as I have not yet been able to bring my child to me. This greatly disappoints me, and I miss my older son, who is still in Kabul, very much. Even as I am telling this, I am crying. I hope that I will be able to hold him in my arms again soon.”

* Name changed to protect anonymity.