EU Says It’s Time to ‘Step Up’ on Afghan Refugee Crisis
(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s home affairs chief said Thursday that countries need to work together urgently to avoid a migration crisis in Afghanistan as she heads to Washington for meetings.
“We need to step up on resettlement” of refugees from Afghanistan, EU justice and home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said in an interview Thursday before departing for the U.S. She added that Europe and the U.S. also need to figure out how to support Afghans who remain in the country, as well as those who have fled to neighboring countries.
“I don’t think anybody has a real clear answer of what is the practical way to do it right now because the situation on the ground is changing almost hour by hour,” she added, referring to warnings from U.S. and U.K. officials about imminent threats of a possible terrorist attack on the Kabul airport, where evacuation flights are being conducted.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said an explosion took place outside the airport on Thursday. “Casualites are unclear at this time,” he said on Twitter.
EU ministers are scheduled to meet Aug. 31 to discuss the Afghan evacuation and refugee situation as they work to avoid the kind of crisis Europe faced with Syrian migrants in 2015.
“This is the first lesson learned: don’t wait until they’re standing at our borders,” Johansson said. “Act as early as possible and also act globally.”
“I’m very happy to have the U.S. back on the scene when it comes to resettlement,” she said.
Johansson said that EU countries are currently in the process of making their annual pledges for the number of migrants from all countries they plan to accept, suggesting that some may hold spots open for Afghan refugees.
She said that she hoped EU member states would be able to pledge to accept about 30,000 Afghan refugees, depending on what individual countries propose. She said the United Nations refugee agency has asked the EU to aim for 36,000 spots.
Separately, Johansson said she expects to discuss the growing problem of ransomware and cyberattacks during her U.S. visit, when she plans to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
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