IRC finds EU’s ‘staggering neglect’ of refugees from Afghanistan

Migrants from Afghanistan in Islam Qala border city in Herat.

New research from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has found that EU states have consistently neglected the needs of refugees from Afghanistan – leaving millions stranded in Afghanistan or neighboring countries.

The research also found the EU has failed to provide adequate safety and inclusion for the small proportion who manage to reach Europe and that the European Union resettled just 271 refugees from Afghanistan in 2022.

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 people from Afghanistan to safety in Europe are falling short of their targets.

According to the report, so far not a single person has arrived under a German scheme established in October last year to welcome 1,000 people from Afghanistan per month.

Italy meanwhile announced a program in November 2021 to take in 1,200 people at risk – but until now, only half this number has arrived, the report stated.

The IRC states that thousands who have been 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 neighboring countries,” the IRC said in a statement.

“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.”

According to the IRC, more than 1.6 million refugees from Afghanistan have made their way to neighboring countries – 99% to Iran and Pakistan – since August 2021.

The IRC also found that 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 while many remain trapped in remote and prison-like facilities on Greek islands.

The organization reported that 92% of refugees from Afghanistan that are supported by IRC experienced anxiety and 86% of them depression.

As such, the IRC has called on the EU and its member states to take urgent action. The organization has asked them to scale up safe routes to protection; ensure access to asylum, with a dignified reception and lasting support.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said: “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.”