EU: Urgent calls to prioritise the safe passage and protection of Afghans at risk

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Ms Ylva Johansson , EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Dear Commissioner Johansson,

Ahead of the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council to take place on 31 August 2021, I am writing to express our grave concern over the human rights and humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Afghan government and takeover by the Taliban. 

In the past week, people across the world have watched in horror as thousands of Afghans desperately headed to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in an attempt to flee the country, fearing reprisal and persecution from the Taliban. Several media reported crowds facing restrictions, indignity, violence and even death as the Taliban and the US Military have used gunshot to control the crowds at the airport. Shocking videos of Afghan citizens running after a US military airplane as it was about to take off and some falling to their death after trying to stow away on the plane speak powerfully of the fear and uncertainty among many Afghans. On Thursday 26 August, two suicide bombers and gunmen carried out attacks at and around Kabul airport, killing over 100 people, mostly among Afghan men, women and children waiting to be evacuated from the capital, and including and at least a dozen US servicemen and women.

We are particularly concerned about the risk of persecution and targeted attacks on human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, journalists, media workers, civil society activists, academics, women leaders and individuals who have worked for international organisations and foreign countries. After the deadly attacks in Kabul, the evacuation operations initiated by various governments, including many European ones, are being wrapped up earlier than the scheduled deadline of August 31, set by the US for hand over to the Taliban, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that many are being left behind. 

At the same time, the humanitarian crisis has escalated. Banks are closed, government offices are shut and there is a rise in living costs including food, water and groceries. There are concerns over shortages of food and other essential items. The fate of around five million internally displaced people is unclear as the fear of violence and restrictions on humanitarian workers have impacted the support to these groups.

In light of these concerns, please find attached Amnesty International’s letter, outlining our calls to the EU and its member states by taking actions to prioritise the protection of Afghan people.