Afghanistan: call for humanitarian corridor for refugees grows in bid to control flow

Top EU diplomat Borrell calls for dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan

European Union commissioner for external relations Josep Borrell
European Union commissioner for external relations Josep Borrell

The European Union’s head of foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, has called for dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan in a bid to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

“We have to get in touch with authorities in Kabul … whatever they are. The Taliban have won the war,” he said, speaking after a video meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the takeover of the Afghan state by the Islamic militant group.

“We’ll have to talk with them in order to engage in a dialogue, as soon as necessary, to prevent a humanitarian and potential migratory disaster,” he added, mentioning one of the biggest fears of EU officials — that the situation in Afghanistan could trigger a migration crisis like the one from Syria in 2015.

“Right now, our immediate priority is to ensure safety and security of all European Union's national and our local Afghan staff and their families. The safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country must be facilitated,” Borell said.

Foreign minister Evarist Bartolo yesterday said “wars against terrorism” could not solve long-term problems. “20 yers ago the United States invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban leadership. Now the Taliban has retaken leadership. In the first three years the US removed all threat that Afghanistan could be used for international terrorism. A new Afghanistan had to be rebuilt during the past 17 years. Looks like the new building was built on solid foundations.”

Bartolo said the process of state-building took time and needed political, social and economic development that benefits all the people. “The people must feel their lives are improving with the creation of new wealth and its just redistribution, job creation, and equal rights.”

Migrant rescue charities and NGOs are calling on European states to take responsibility for the migrant influx that the exodus from Afghanistan will generate. The German NGO Sea-Eye launched a petition calling for the establishment of safe passages from Afghanistan. Over 185,000 people joined the demand within 48 hours.

The German Cabinet is to take a decision for a Federal Armed Forces mandate for the evacuation of local staff, embassy staff and particularly endangered persons.

“Passages to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries must not end in a humanitarian deadlock. In the past, the demands for European coordination and aid on site have only ever served to justify one’s own inaction. Therefore, we call on the German government and the EU member states to give real prospects to all people who have to leave Afghanistan and to create safe passages to take in people seeking protection. We call on Angela Merkel and Heiko Maas in particular to advocate for a quick, humanitarian solution with Germany’s partners and to set a good example,” said Gorden Isler, Chairman of Sea-Eye.

Neighbouring country Uzbekistan has already announced its intention to prevent refugee movements from Afghanistan. Turkey has started to build a wall at the border to Iran. Greece has also announced that it will repel refugees at its border.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has also called on all countries to take in Afghan refugees and stop deportations: “States have a legal and moral responsibility to provide protection to those fleeing Afghanistan and to not return refugees forcibly.” According to UNHCR, since the beginning of the year, in Afghanistan about 400,000 people have already fled their homes due to violence, and after the recent events there is a risk that thousands of families, including women and children, will be forced to flee their homes in search of safety.

The European Union’s Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said Europe should create humanitarian corridors to receive refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, and also to avoid uncontrolled flows of illegal immigrants. “I think that Europe will inevitably have to equip itself for humanitarian corridors and organised reception, also to avoid uncontrolled flows of illegal immigrants. Or, at least, the countries that are willing to do so, should.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also stressed the responsibility Germany has to bear now: “We are experiencing a human tragedy these days for which we share responsibility.”

Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai appealed to governments around the world, saying every country has a responsibility: “Countries need to open their borders to Afghan refugees, the displaced people.”

The Canadian government already pledged on Saturday to take in up to 20,000 people from Afghanistan seeking protection.

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) asked the Italian government and the European Union to activate all legal mechanisms available to ensure the safe entry of Afghan refugees.

“We ask the American government and allied countries to welcome all those who have worked and still work, directly or indirectly, with the Western coalition. If this is denied, Afghan people would be forced to undertake perilous journeys through alternative dangerous routes. They would need to cross mountains and deserts, crossings and borders, perhaps embarking on boats with the risk of drowning, turning to traffickers as a last resort,” MOAS co-founder and director Regina Catrambone said.

“Afghans have the right to live with dignity and safety, and I hope that, as Pope Francis declared, weapons will be replaced by dialogue and peace, in full respect of human rights. The international community must be united in ensuring the use of #SafeAndLegalRoutes to save the lives of people fleeing Afghanistan: asylum must be offered to all Afghan refugees who need it. Let’s not turn the other way, let’s embrace our humanity and offer them all our solidarity.”