October 1, 2021
Members of the European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council
Re: Resettlement and Complementary Pathways for Afghans
We write to urge your government to make concrete and meaningful pledges to assist Afghan refugees at particular risk at the upcoming High-level Forum focusing on providing protection to Afghans at risk convened by the European Commission.
Given the likelihood that the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan will exacerbate an already protracted displacement situation, it is vital that EU member states, as well as other countries around the world, adopt a comprehensive plan of action to resettle Afghan refugees from neighboring states. Iran and Pakistan host almost 90 percent of Afghan refugees; neither they nor other countries of first arrival, should bear such a high share of the responsibility. Resettlement should remain based on a protection assessment and UNHCR criteria, focusing on the most vulnerable refugees, while ensuring respect for family unity.
A targeted resettlement scheme for Afghan nationals should not detract from efforts to resettle refugees from other countries. In July, UNHCR had made a global recommendation that EU member states admit at least 36,000 refugees in 2022; pledges to resettle Afghans should be in addition to these much-needed places for other nationals. Similarly, Afghans already evacuated by member states should not be counted in forthcoming resettlement quotas.
In addition to pledging refugee resettlement places commensurate with the need to provide durable solutions, we urge your government to use other available options to provide safe passage out of Afghanistan and neighboring states to meet immediate humanitarian needs. We urge you to:
- Increase the possibility for family reunification by broadening the definition of family, enable Afghans in Europe to sponsor family members in Afghanistan regardless of the type of status they have, and ease evidential requirements.
- Expand humanitarian visa programs and facilitate student scholarship schemes, placements for visiting scholars, artists and work visas in collaboration with universities, employers, and others.
- Establish and expand community sponsorship programs led by groups, faith-based organizations, diaspora communities, municipalities and cities, and educational institutions.
We urge you also to uphold and defend the rights of Afghans already in the EU and those arriving by means other than resettlement or complementary pathways in order to seek asylum. All EU countries should formally suspend all deportations and forced returns of Afghan nationals, including to third countries where their rights would not be respected, and should review all rejected asylum claims given the changed circumstances. Afghans should be given at least temporary legal status, work and study authorization, and the right to remain without fear of forced return to Afghanistan or neighboring countries where effective protection is not available. No Afghan or any other asylum seeker should be pushed back at EU borders or denied access to the asylum procedure and related reception.
We would be happy to discuss these issues with you and your team.
Europe and Central Asia Director
Human Rights Watch