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Women in the UK at a protest asking countries internationall not to recognise the Taliban
Women in the UK at a protest asking countries internationall not to recognise the Taliban
Image: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire via Alamy

EU commissioner says member states must take in Afghans under 'immediate threat'

The EU, US and 18 other countries have issued a joint statement calling for women’s safety.
Aug 18th 2021, 2:47 PM 22,119 45

Updated Aug 18th 2021, 8:18 PM

EU COUNTRIES MUST take in Afghans under “immediate threat” after the victory of the Taliban, especially women and girls, the European commissioner for home affairs said today.

“We should not wait until people are at our external border. We need to help them before that,” Ylva Johansson said before taking part in an emergency videolink meeting of EU interior ministers.

“And it’s important that we also help those in immediate threat to be resettled to EU member states.”

She and the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell updated the ministers on the situation in Afghanistan, where EU countries are among those frantically evacuating citizens and Afghan staff following the Taliban’s sudden return to power.

The ministers’ virtual meeting had originally been called to discuss ways to respond to another pressing migration issue: that of Belarus encouraging thousands of migrants, especially from Iraq, to cross its borders into Lithuania and other EU states.

But the events unfolding in Afghanistan, which have fuelled European fears of a fresh wave of Afghan asylum-seekers headed to the EU, overshadowed the talks.

Johansson said that EU countries “need to avoid a migratory crisis” from Afghanistan.

Resettlement offers should be extended to Afghans in desperate need — “people that have been working for fundamental rights for journalists, for example, and others in Afghanistan that now are under threat and really need to be resettled in safety to the European Union.”

She added that the “gender dimension” was also important, meaning “we can help women and girls”.

But the EU should also help countries neighbouring Afghanistan cope with expected inflows of Afghan migrants, and action should be taken to prevent them taking “dangerous routes that are facilitated by smugglers”, she said.

Johansson added that it was “important that we can help these people in Afghanistan when possible to return to their homes”.

The commissioner is spearheading a campaign to have EU member states adopt a new migration and asylum pact the European Commission is proposing.

But not all EU countries are on board with that plan, which foresees the burden of hosting migrants being shared out across the 27-nation bloc instead of being concentrated, as now, on countries such as Greece and Italy.

The EU, United States, and 18 other countries issued a joint statement today saying they are “deeply worried about Afghan women and girls”, urging the Taliban to ensure their safety.

“We are deeply worried about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work and freedom of movement. We call on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to guarantee their protection,” the statement said.

“Afghan women and girls, as all Afghan people, deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. Any form of discrimination and abuse should be prevented. We in the international community stand ready to assist them with humanitarian aid and support, to ensure that their voices can be heard.”

Alongside the EU and the US, the others signing onto the statement were Albania, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Senegal and Switzerland.

They said they would closely watch to see how “any future government ensures rights and freedoms that have become an integral part of the life of women and girls in Afghanistan during the last twenty years”.

The statement came as Western countries conducted evacuation flights out of Kabul for their nationals and for Afghans who helped them during the last two decades.

However, Austria has insisted it wants to continue to deport Afghans whose asylum claims have been rejected or who have been found guilty of crimes and to discourage refugees fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan from coming to Europe.

Austria’s interior minister has said he will lobby the EU to set up “deportation centres” in countries neighbouring Afghanistan to take in Afghans deported from Europe.

“It is important… that it continues to be possible to deport violent asylum seekers or refugees, so we need these deportation centres,” Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told reporters before meeting his EU counterparts.

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Austria under conservative Sebastian Kurz has a hardline stance on migration, at odds with the chancellor’s current coalition partner, the Greens.

The Taliban seized Kabul on Sunday, taking power again in Afghanistan after two decades of war and sparking huge concerns globally about their brutal human rights record.

The last time the Taliban were in power, before they were ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001, their rule was characterised by a brutally literal interpretation of Islam that prevented Afghan women from working or studying, or travelling without a male “guardian”.

Since seizing power on the weekend in a lightning advance that took the US and its allies by surprise, the Taliban say they will behave differently this time around, and have pledged to respect women’s rights “in accordance with the principles of Islam”. 

© AFP 2021

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