LONDON: Only 271 out of 270,000 Afghans judged as needing protection were resettled in the EU last year, with a charity criticizing member states for failing refugees, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
The International Rescue Committee said the figures represent “staggering neglect” of Afghan refugees, with EU member states falling short of meeting their resettlement pledges.
Many of the Afghans remain in “prison-like” conditions in border centers across the Greek islands, a common entry point into Europe for refugees.
The charity said a program launched by Germany in 2021 to resettle up to 1,000 Afghans per month has failed to accept a single person, while Italy has only accepted half the number of refugees it pledged to welcome.
From 2021 to 2022, amid the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, about 41,500 Afghans were fast-tracked into EU member-state entry programs.
But the IRC described the response as “vastly insufficient,” adding that since the fall of Kabul, some EU states have failed to resettle a single Afghan.
A report by the charity warned that Afghans seeking refuge in Europe still lack legal pathways to resettlement.
IRC CEO David Miliband said: “This report highlights staggering neglect of Afghans by the member states of the EU, 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.”
The report also warned that a study from January to March this year showed that more than 90 percent of the Afghans in contact with IRC teams on the Greek island of Lesbos and the capital Athens were suffering from anxiety. A further 86 percent also demonstrated symptoms of depression, the charity added.
Miliband drew comparisons between EU member-state treatment of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees, saying acceptance of the former demonstrated the capacity of states to resettle the latter.
He added: “There is simply no excuse for treating Afghans, and refugees forced from their homes elsewhere, any differently.”
However, the report excluded other pathways that some EU states have launched to accept refugees through other means.
Germany accepted about 286,000 Afghans in 2022, the country’s national statistics office said in March.
The IRC called for EU member states to target Afghan resettlement numbers of 42,500 each over the next five years.
Zahra, 60, a refugee who waited two and a half years for resettlement in Germany, told the charity: “Waiting for an answer was a very difficult and anxious time for me, as I was without my two children in this foreign country whose culture I did not know.
“I had no choice but to wait and hope that one day I would be able to offer my children a safe life here.”