Tag Archives: refugees

SOTEU: Afghan Support Package in view

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “…Recent events in Afghanistan are not the cause of this change – but they are a symptom of it” the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, while delivering the State of Union speech at European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg.
“And first and foremost, I want to be clear. We stand by the Afghan people. The women and children, prosecutors, journalists and human rights defenders”.

“I think in particular of women judges who are now in hiding from the men they jailed. They have been put at risk for their contribution to justice and the rule of law. We must support them and we will coordinate all efforts with Member States to bring them to safety.

“And we must continue supporting all Afghans in the country and in neighbouring countries. We must do everything to avert the real risk of a major famine and humanitarian disaster. And we will do our part. We will increase again humanitarian aid for Afghanistan by 100 million euro.

“This will be part of a new, wider Afghan Support Package that we will present in the next weeks to combine all of our efforts” the president of the Commission concluded.

Gymnich on Afghanistan

Brussels 03.09.2021 Press statement by High Representative Josep Borrell at the informal meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich) on Afghanistan:
“As I said at the beginning, the discussion today was going to be focused on Afghanistan. It is the most urgent priority. This is a polyhedric (many-sided, multifaceted) issue, we have to look at the situation in Afghanistan under the new circumstances: the lessons learnt, the state-building management, the relations with the United States. All of that.

“But today the Ministers had immediately driven their efforts on the discussion on the most pressing issue of this very much complex agenda. We will have time to go deeper on these other subjects not finished today, but today the Ministers have concentrated on how to deal with the new situation, how to deal with the new government in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule.

“I am going to try to summarise the main elements of the discussion with Foreign Ministers about this specific approach. This is my take of the debate, and Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia] Anže [Logar] will complement also. But as you know very well, this is an informal meeting, no decisions, no conclusions of the Council, [these are] conclusions of the High Representative taking stock of the general feeling of the debate among the Ministers.

“What is clear is that the future of Afghanistan remains a key issue for us. It affects us, it affects the region, international stability and it has a direct impact on European security. At the same time, the Ministers strongly insisted on the idea that we remain committed to supporting the Afghan population.

“In order to support the Afghan population, we will have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan, which does not mean recognition, it is an operational engagement. And this operational engagement will increase depending on the behaviour of this government. In order to measure the behaviour, we need benchmarks and the following are the benchmarks that we discussed as the basis for the European Union engagement with Afghan power-holders following the Taliban takeover.

“We will judge the behaviour and engage according to commitment of the Afghan government for Afghanistan not to serve as a basis for the export of terrorism to other countries.

Second, the respect for human rights, in particular women rights, the rule of law and freedom of the media.

“The third benchmark will be the establishment of an inclusive and representative transitional government through negotiations among political forces in Afghanistan.

“The fourth will be the free access for humanitarian aid, respecting our procedures and conditions for its delivery. We will increase humanitarian aid, but we will judge them according with the access that they provide to this help according to our procedures and conditions.

“The last benchmark will be the fulfilment of the Taliban commitment about the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans at risk, who wish to leave the country, in line with what was already decided by United Nations Security Resolution 2593.

“It is an engagement with the Taliban themselves, the international community is pressing for it. We will judge their behaviour according to these five benchmarks. Some will say ‘oh, but the Taliban will not fulfil them’. Let us see. Our engagement will depend on the fulfilment of these conditions.

“This is one very important aspect of our discussion today: how do we engage with the new power in Afghanistan?

“The second one is how do we continue supporting the people that we wanted to evacuate and were unable to do that due to the end of the air lifting and on the last days of August. People at risk, people who were working with us, people who were supporting the process of democratisation of Afghanistan and they are still there. We know them. They have to be evacuated.

“On that, the Foreign Affairs Ministers took good notice of what the Council of the Home Affairs Ministers decided on the 31st of August. And individual Member States will decide, on a voluntary basis, on the persons at risk that they are willing to receive under their protection, in accordance – as I said – with the statement of the situation adopted by the Council the past 31st of August.

“The benchmark of the new power in Afghanistan allowing movement of people is something different from the evacuation of national personnel from Afghanistan under the protection of Member States, which will be done on an individual and voluntary basis.

“In order to implement this evacuation, and in order to assess the implementation of the above benchmarks, we have decided to work in a coordinated manner. To coordinate our contacts with the Taliban, including through a joint European Union’s presence in Kabul, coordinated by the European External Action Service – if the security conditions are met.

“If you want to do it in a coordinated way, to evacuate the people who we are willing to accept, each Member State, we need a strong engagement, a strong contact, a close presence. And this will be done in a coordinated manner through a joint European Union’s presence in Kabul, coordinated by the European External Action Service – if the security conditions are met.

“Another agreement is on the need to coordinate the engagement of the regional and relevant international partners. And for that, the Ministers considered appropriate that under the auspices of the European External Action Service, the European Union will initiate a regional political platform of cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbours.

“This will be built on the already existing broad relations of the European Union and Member States with these countries and this political platform will consider, among other issues, the management of population flows from Afghanistan; the prevention of the spread of terrorism; the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking and human being smuggling.

“This will represent a strong diplomatic effort of all Member States going together, coordinated by the European External Action Service, in order to create this regional political platform with Afghanistan’s neighbours, which is very much needed if we want to stabilise the whole region.

“Certainly, we will continue working with specialised agencies in addressing the challenges in Afghanistan. We welcome the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2593. We had the opportunity to listen the report of the Head of the United Nations Agency for Refugees in Afghanistan, who explained us the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, which is dire.

“We will coordinate strongly with the United States, as well as with other partners and regional organisations in the framework of the G7 and the G20.

“So, engagement with the Taliban, benchmark to measure how this engagement is going on, coordinated effort in order to continue the evacuation of our nationals and Afghan people under our protection on an individual basis among Member States, but coordinated among all of us to make this evacuation possible, which will require certainly engagement with the Afghanistan power [holders], and creation of a regional political platform together with the neighbours of Afghanistan.

“It has been an intense discussion and I thank [for] the help that you, Anže, provided to me in order to get these conclusions. I am sure that you will like to add some considerations about it”.

Afghanistan: EU on migration

Brussels 31.08.2021 Council of the EU Statements and remarks 31 August 2021 18:10:
Statement on the situation in Afghanistan (Image above: illustration, Europa building, Brussels).

“The EU Ministers of Home Affairs met today for an extraordinary Council meeting to discuss developments in Afghanistan, more specifically in relation to potential implications in the areas of international protection, migration and security. The seriousness of the evolving situation requires a determined and concerted response to its many dimensions by the EU and the international community.

“The evacuation of our citizens and to the extent possible of Afghan nationals who have cooperated with the EU and its Member States and their families, has been conducted as a matter of priority and will be continued. In this regard, intensive work is underway to identify targeted solutions for the remaining specific cases of persons at risk in Afghanistan.
As an immediate priority, the EU will continue to coordinate with international partners, in particular the UN and its agencies, on the stabilisation of the region and to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the vulnerable populations, in particular women and children, in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries. To this end, the EU and its Member States will step up financial support to relevant international organisations.
“The EU will engage and strengthen its support to third countries, in particular the neighbouring and transit countries, hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, to reinforce their capacities to provide protection, dignified and safe reception conditions and sustainable livelihood for refugees and host communities. The EU will also cooperate with those countries to prevent illegal migration from the region, reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings. To this effect, the mandates of EU agencies should be used to their full extent. In particular, the European Asylum Support Office should step up its external operations for asylum capacity building. Furthermore, as part of global efforts, support could be provided in the form of resettlement on a voluntary basis, prioritising vulnerable persons, such as women and children.

“The Action Plan on Afghanistan should be prioritised and revised in light of this statement and changed circumstances to make it more operational. A Team Europe approach is needed to work with Afghanistan’s neighbours to address the impact of displacement in the region. The Council urges the Commission to assess all options for the necessary financial assistance under the Multiannual Financial Framework, in particular NDICI and asylum, migration and border management instruments.

“Based on lessons learned, the EU and its Member States stand determined to act jointly to prevent the recurrence of uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements faced in the past, by preparing a coordinated and orderly response. Incentives to illegal migration should be avoided. The EU should also strengthen the support to the countries in Afghanistan’s immediate neighbourhood to ensure that those in need receive adequate protection primarily in the region. The need for unified and coordinated external but also internal communication is key. Targeted information campaigns should be launched to combat the narratives used by smugglers, including in the on-line environment, which encourage people to embark on dangerous and illegal journeys towards Europe.

“The EU and its Member States will do their utmost to ensure that the situation in Afghanistan does not lead to new security threats for EU citizens. All efforts must be pursued to ensure that the Taliban regime ceases all ties and practices with international terrorism and that Afghanistan does not become once again a sanctuary for terrorists and organised crime groups. The EU will use all its available tools to closely monitor and respond to developments on the ground that might impact its security, in particular in the area of organised crime and terrorism, including its financing. Europol will provide an analysis of the criminal risks linked to the situation in Afghanistan. Exchange of information and intelligence, in line with national competences, also with third countries, and the sharing of regular threat assessments, are of utmost importance. The timely performance of security checks of persons being evacuated from Afghanistan remains crucial.
The EU and its Member States, with the support of Frontex, remain determined to effectively protect the EU external borders and prevent unauthorized entries, and assist the most affected Member States. Appropriate security checks should be carried out, including through the full use of relevant EU databases, as well as registration in Eurodac. Furthermore, as part of our comprehensive approach to external cooperation on migration, third-country national clauses in the readmission agreements between the EU and certain transit countries should be used where the legal requirements are met.
The Council recognizes the need to support and provide adequate protection to those in need, in line with EU law and our international obligations, and to bring closer Member States’ practices in the reception and processing of Afghan asylum seekers.

“The Council will closely follow the developments in the area of international protection, migration and security. It will respond to attempts to instrumentalise illegal migration for political purposes and other hybrid threats, including by developing new tools. The Council will also monitor closely the implementation of the actions mentioned above and ensure regular stocktaking in order to further improve the EU’s crisis management capacity, building upon the tools already developed. Coordination of all dimensions of this situation (humanitarian, development, international protection, migration, security, foreign policy) is crucial”.

Taliban assures free departures

Brussels 29.08.201 The following statement was released initially by the Governments of the United States of America, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Canada, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Republic of Kosovo, Romania, Rwanda, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland , The Bahamas, The Gambia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Union of the Comoros, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Yemen, and Zambia.

“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk, can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan”.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country”.

“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries. We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding”.

Johansson: no returns to Afghans in EU

Brussels 19.08.2021 “The European Commission has been following the latest developments in Afghanistan with great and increasing concern” said the in the statement by Commissioner Johansson on the situation in Afghanistan at the extraordinary meeting of Interior Ministers.

“Today, I shared my concerns on the extremely serious and difficult situation with the EU Ministers of Interior, and my view on the way forward:

“Evacuation of EU staff and citizens and local staff who have been working with the EU and the Member States in Afghanistan is an immediate priority. Work on that is in progress in very difficult circumstances. I am grateful to the Member States for their commitment in granting visas to the staff and their families, and for offering seats in the departing planes. The Commission stands ready to coordinate all actions needed for them to find a new home.

The instability in Afghanistan is likely to lead to increased migratory pressure. We are therefore preparing for all scenarios. For this purpose, in line with the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, we convened yesterday an urgent Blueprint Network meeting during which we discussed with Member States and EU agencies about possible developments and the level of our preparedness. The Blueprint Network will continue meeting regularly on this topic to closely monitor the developments and take all preparatory steps needed.

We should not wait until people arrive at the external borders of the European Union. This is not a solution. We should prevent people from heading towards the European Union through unsafe, irregular and uncontrolled routes run by smugglers.

At the same time, we cannot abandon people in immediate danger in Afghanistan. Journalists, NGO staff and human rights advocates in Afghanistan are amongst those who are most at risk, women in particular.

“We have to support people displaced in Afghanistan through international organisations, such as the UNHCR and the IOM, give them the assistance needed and help them get back to their homes in Afghanistan when conditions on the ground allow. Some 550 000 Afghans have now been internally displaced in the country since the beginning of the year, in addition to 2.9 million already internally displaced at the end of 2020. Since the beginning of the year, some 120 000 Afghans have fled from rural areas and provincial towns to Kabul province – including some 20 000 since the start of July. 80% of the people forced to flee are women and children.

“A significant number of Afghani nationals have already fled to neighbouring countries. We should work closely with the countries in the region and be ready to provide them with the necessary humanitarian and development assistance. We must step up our support as the situation evolves.

“The EU has been engaged and has been supporting programmes linked to the forced displacement of Afghans for many years, in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries (particularly Iran and Pakistan). More than EUR 250 million in assistance has been provided to support host communities and the sustainable reintegration of returnees and internally displaced persons, and to support capacity building for the authorities. We will continue our ongoing programmes and intensify our cooperation with host communities in Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan, as well as other countries in the region such as Turkey.

“As things stand, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly not safe and it will not be safe for some time. Therefore we cannot force people to return to Afghanistan.

“While we continue our work to address risks of irregular migration, fight against human smuggling and manage our borders effectively, we need to offer legal, safe and organised pathways towards the EU. This reflects our comprehensive and balanced approach on migration set out in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

I have called on Member States to step up their engagement on resettlement, to increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection and to offer complementary legal pathways. To me, it is very clear that Afghani women and girls are in a specifically dangerous situation: prioritising resettlement over irregular routes has also a clear gender dimension. Again, the Commission stands ready to help in the coordination between Member States and to provide the necessary additional financial support on this important work strand.

In addition, the EU will also continue to play a leading role in supporting Afghan refugees in the region. We will use our role as chair of the Core Group of the Solution Strategy for Afghan refugees and its Support Platform in 2021 to strengthen international community’s response to the Afghan refugee situation in the region and consequently to spur political, financial and material commitments around the regional dimension of Afghan displacement.

The rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan poses a global challenge, which is why we need to act together and with all partners on a global level, in a resolute and fair manner, while guaranteeing the respect of fundamental rights, the protection of our values and working in a spirit of solidarity. We will cooperate closely with our international partners and we look forward to discussing the next steps, including within the UN framework and the G7.

Borrell visits Malta over migration

This visit is one of the very first visits after the lockdown and it carries a strong message of European Union solidarity with respect to Malta. We are facing major challenges in our Southern neighbourhood” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while visiting Valletta.

“We discussed all of them today: Libya, Syria, Middle East, the Middle East Peace Process and the migration flows, of course. We have been talking almost every day over the last few months with the Minister because you were worried and asking for the European Union’s intervention in order to deal with migration problems”.

«…On migration, Malta has been facing a huge pressure. We fully share Malta’s determination to address irregular migration in a comprehensive way, starting by addressing the crisis in Libya and supporting the Libyan authorities»

«Libya remains the largest beneficiary in North Africa under the European Union [Emergency] Trust Fund [for Africa]. We, Europeans, are contributing a lot for the population in Libya. We will continue supporting them and also the Libyan Coastguard in order to strengthen their capacity of intervention to dismantle trafficking networks and conduct rescue operations in their area of responsibility. This is done through our two CSDP missions and operations: Operation Irini (link is external) – recently launched – and EUBAM Libya. But the Minister explained me that we really have to increase the capacities of the Libyan Coastguard. But of course we also need a long-term solution in Libya and Malta is at the forefront when it comes to these efforts.

«We talked also with Prime Minister Abela about his meeting with Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez] al-Sarraj. We have a common objective: a united and stable Libya. We need to work together in the framework of the European Union. The Berlin process remains the only international framework to relaunch a political dialogue on Libya.

«I am also glad that just yesterday Malta reached a deal with other Member States to relocate an important number of migrants with the coordination and help of the European Commission. We will continue encouraging Member States to show solidarity towards other Member States when rescued persons are disembarked.

«Malta is not alone, Malta’s challenges are also the European Union’s challenges and I am here to show that we will continue to work together to address all of them in the short-term and looking also for structural solutions in the middle and long-term».

Germany willing to shelter children

Government is seeking a “coalition of the willing” to shelter migrant children across Europe. The EU is searching for way to avoid the second wave of the 2015 refugee crisis while thousands of migrants gather at Greece’s border. (Image: social media).

Germany is prepared to take in “an appropriate share” of the neediest refugee children hosted in overcrowded Greek migrant camps, Berlin officials said on March 9.
The official underlined that they are prepared to take children together with “a coalition of the willing” along with the other EU countries.

The announcement from the government came after Chancellor Angela Merkel met with members of her coalition government to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Greece including already existing situation in the migrants camps.

At present the crowds of migrants have been gathering along the Greece-Turkey border following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcement Turkey borders were open to refugees seeking to cross into Greece.

German plan is set to help between 1,000 – 1,500 children identified as being particularly in need. This means either unaccompanied children under the age of 14 or children in need of urgent medical assistance. However no clarifications of methods of establishing real age of children were presented publicly. So far in absence of documents humanitarian organisations register age of migrants on bona fide basis without any further verifications. This practice has opened a broad gate of abuses, when young men of 25 years, and older registered as minors.

The Europeans discovered gross abuses in hosting refugee system when a Somalianchild refugee” stabbed a Swedish social worker to death. In the cause of prosecution the assailant has been identified to be at least three years older than the declared age of 15.

Alexandra Mezher, 22, was killed (25.01.2016) after she tried to break up a knife fight at an child migrant centre where she worked in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Educated to care for children Mezher herself had expressed concerns to her family about being the guardian for “big powerful guys aged up to 24“.

Germany: refugee status implications

Refugees who return to Syria for holidays might lose their status in Germany, the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told the Bild newspaper. The measure is taken based on the situation of some newcomers simultaneously claim to be fleeing persecution there, and returning to spend summer time.

In case the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) would became aware of travels to the country of origin, the authorities would immediately examine a revocation of refugee status, he said. In addition, they observe closely the developments in Syria. “If the situation permits, we will carry out repatriations” Horst Seehofer (CSU)  Federal Interior Minister said.

Around 780,000 Syrians have fled to Germany in recent years. For more than eight years, the devastating war has been raging, however now the troops of President Bashar al-Assad have gained control over the majority of territories, and reconstruction of infrastructure and houses began. The World Food Programme (WFP) Director of Supply Chain Jakob Kern assessed the investment into the entire reconstruction of infrastructure to amount up to  USD200-300 billion. The armed conflict in Syria has been ongoing since 2011. At the end of 2017, the victory was announced over the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. In some areas of Syria the fight is ongoing. At the moment, a political settlement, the restoration of Syria, and the return of refugees are in the forefront.

25 years in prison for Catalan referendum

The Spanish prosecutor’s office demands a 25-year prison sentence for the leader of the pro-independence Catalan party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ErC), Oriol Junqueras, for a challenge to the central government that resulted in the unilateral declaration of independence on October 27, 2017. Junqueras is charged with the Medieval crime of “rebellion”.

After a year of investigations, the prosecutor presented the request for sentences, ranging from 25 years for former Catalan vice president to 16 for five former “advisors”: Jordi Turull, Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Dolors Bassa and Josep Rull.

For the leaders of Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, the prosecution requests 17 years in jail and a 17-year ban on holding public office, similar punishment is proposed for the former Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell.

All are charged with “rebellion“, a crime that carries a 30-year maximum sentence. For the three advisers who are not in detention – Carles Mundó, Maritxell Borrás and Santiago Vila – the requested sentence is limited to 7 years, since they are accused only of embezzlement.

Migrants siege at Croatia border

Croatian police clarified the situation blaming circulation of false information that the authorities  would open its borders letting  in hundreds of illegal migrants and refugees gathering at crossings in Serbia and Bosnia, hoping to enter the EU via Croatia.

Some 400+ migrants gathered this week on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s border with Croatia, with a similar number accumulating on Serbian  border with Croatia, local media reported.

Croatian police continues to announce that misinformation had been spread that the EU state would open its borders, however it has no effect on waiting crowds.

Among the migrant populations on the territory of Bosnia and Serbia, false information is spreading that the Republic of Croatia will allow their entry into its territory as well as further passage to the countries of Western Europe,” a police statement said.

Local police and members of Bosnia’s border units were deployed to the Maljevac border crossing in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, where hundreds illegal migrants attempted to enter Croatia. At present no major incidents or escalation reported, but migrants continue to camp, awaiting for their chance, and small groups have already  attempted to break through this morning.

There is a general public concern about the current developments in view of accumulating crowds of illegal migrants. An opinion prevails that without the EU assistance Croatian border control units will not be able to respond to the scale of the challenge.

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