The proposals on the table: Asylum and Immigration
After the final departure of the American and allied military forces, the political situation in Afghanistan remains extremely tense and in constant evolution. Within the first six months of 2021, it became clear that the terrible impact of the uprising violence on the civilian population, with over 1600 civilians killed and more than 3500 injured, of which a vast part were women, girls and children (UNAMA data). The deterioration of the scenario in recent weeks has further aggravated the situation, with tens of thousands of people forced to flee from their homes and to join the more than 5 million internally displaced individuals already present in the country (IOM), including the tragic evacuation attempts of civilians from Kabul airport, that allowed thousands of people to be rescued, unfortunately leaving many more behind. The civilian population will continue to be exposed to the risk of violence within a deeper disastrous economic context, where almost 11 million Afghan citizens live in a state of emergency or severe food crises even before the events of the last few weeks.
In this context, the EU, its member states and Italy, which have a significant share of responsibility for what is happening, must implement initiatives up to the tragedy that unfolds before our eyes.
The process of evacuation that involved a few thousand people and may not continue due to the closure of operations and the progressive deterioration of the situation certainly cannot represent the only action taken by the governments of the European Union.
Until today, almost the majority of the exiles, refugees, and displaced people produced by the war in Afghanistan were taken from its neighbouring countries, (especially Pakistan and Iran, which have taken 90% of the 5 million Afghans who were forced to leave the country); less than 700,000 asylum applications have been submitted in the EU over the past decade. In this view, the conclusions of the EU Council of Interior Ministers, held on the last 31 August, are unacceptable and exclude de facto any commitment by Member States to welcome fleeing Afghan citizens, pinning the responsibility on neighbouring countries and reaffirming the main priority of protecting external borders from unauthorised entry.
On the contrary, it is necessary to intervene by implementing an extensive program of transfers/relocations of Afghan citizens to be also implemented by transit countries, through an initiative that guarantees an equilibrium in the efforts between the Member States in the implementation of art. 78, paragraph 3 of the TFEU and the principle of solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibilities set in art. 80 of the same TFEU. The countries in which many Afghan citizens who try to reach the European Union find themselves stopped, such as Turkey and non-EU countries in the Balkan area, cannot be considered safe regarding the access to asylum rights and to ensure an adequate level of protection. Any agreement aimed at producing the repatriation of Afghan citizens to these countries or the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, as well as obviously to their country of origin, must be excluded.
It is, therefore, a question of implementing an extraordinary intervention that allows the minority of people who will choose not to stay in neighbouring countries to travel safely and legally.
The situation in Greece, an EU country where thousands of Afghan citizens in precarious conditions are currently blocked, deserves special attention.
In order to allow a common European solution, all existing tools must be used, including issuing humanitarian visas and the activation of Directive no. 55/2001 / EC, which can also be adopted by a qualified majority, which is in force and which, despite never being applied, contains elements and directions, useful for the current crisis: the possibility of adopting a broad evacuation plan agreed at European level with a shared, agreed reception and agreed by the States on the basis of fair criteria that in any case would take into account the possible relation of people with a given EU country, access to European resources and the issue of a residence permit for temporary protection.
We also believe that every effort must be made to ensure a greater degree of security in Afghanistan for all Afghan citizens, regardless of gender, religion, ethnic origin or political orientation, and to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance to the population.
We demand especially
To Italy and the European Union
● To urgently guarantee protection and humanitarian assistance to 39 million Afghans, which remained in the country through the support and financing of projects to protect the human rights of the population, contributing in an effective and coordinated way to the global humanitarian response.
● That a clear commitment has to be defined by the Member States to participate in the resettlement mechanism of Afghan citizens to the territory of the European Union.
● To implement Directive 2011/55 / EC in a complementary manner to ensure immediate and temporary protection for Afghan citizens forced to leave their country even if they are already in the territory of third countries, guaranteeing adequate distribution between the Member States as well as preserving unity within family members, as provided for by Article 15 of the same Directive, and in any case ensuring access to the procedure for the recognition of international protection.
● That, by adopting unique criteria among different EU countries, priority is set towards vulnerable categories and people at risk, including safe access to EU territories, or in any case permitted to all those people who risk their lives for several reasons of remaining in Afghanistan, or who fled the country through the release of humanitarian visas based on art. 25 of the Visa Code (EC Regulation 810/2009).
● That access to the territory of the European Union and access to the procedure for the recognition of international protection are always granted and rejections suspended by both national authorities, the European Border and by the Coast Guard Agency, in particular in the Aegean Sea, towards Turkey as well as towards non-EU countries of the Balkan area.
● That any form of unfavourable decision (denials, repatriation and rejections) against Afghans present in European Union countries or at EU borders have to be suspended, as requested additionally by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, considering all women as prima facie refugees, and that a swift review of adverse decisions that have precluded Afghan nationals from being granted international protection, as well as of requests for international protection currently under evaluation, to be carried out, ensuring that decisions are promptly made.
● That a minimum two-year relocation program has to be adopted throughout the EU for people currently accepted in reception centres in Greece and in particular in the Greek islands, starting with unaccompanied minors, families and vulnerable individuals, in consideration of the extremely critical conditions of the centres and the concrete possibility that the new spontaneous arrivals of migrants lead to excessive pressure on Greece and a further deterioration of people’s living conditions.
● That the so-called “Blueprint network”, established as foreseen by the European Asylum and Migration Pact, as well as any other task force that will be created to address the ongoing developments at the European level, includes expertise in the field of child protection.
● To support the establishment of an independent mechanism to monitor violations and abuses of human rights that may occur in the country.
In addition, we demand to Italy
● That the duties relating to the issue of entry visas for Afghan citizens, in particular those for family reunifications or in any case for the release of humanitarian visas, are transferred to the Italian consular representations in neighbouring countries (together with other consular services), guaranteeing quick and simplified procedures that take into account the possibility that the Afghan passport may have expired or is no longer held by the interested parties in consideration of the situation and the non-regular presence of the applicant in the country where the consular representation is located.
● That people who have already received a permit for family reunification from Italian authorities and have not been able to obtain a visa would be allowed to enter Italy, considering as well the closure of the visa office in Kabul for over a year, also regarding all relatives, even in a broader sense, of those who have requested and can request reunification, even if they have not completed the procedure.
● To facilitate the re-entry of Afghan citizens holding an Italian residence permit who, for various reasons, are blocked in Afghanistan or neighbouring countries through the prompt issue of re-entry visas.
● That the arrival and reception of university students is favoured by issuing entry for student visas.
● That, while waiting for the possible activation of Directive 55/2001, Afghan citizens who are still present in Italy are guaranteed immediate access to the procedure for the recognition of international protection and to a residence permit that guarantees them and, as far as possible, their family members currently in Afghanistan or third countries receive adequate protection. With regard to these, it is appropriate that through a prioritised evaluation under art. 28, co. 2, lett. a) Legislative Decree 25/2008, the territorial commissions recognise one of the two forms of international protection provided for by the legal system and that this applies – where possible – by omitting the personal interview with the applicant, under art. 12, co. 2 and 2 bis, Legislative Decree 25/2008.
● To suspend any transfer from Italy to other Member States of Afghan citizens who are recipients of a transfer provision under Regulation (EU) no. 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 26 June 2013 (the so-called Dublin III Regulation) guaranteeing the assumption of the duties by Italy to examine the application for international protection, including those that have judicial procedures in progress.
● That the public reception system has to be expanded, through extraordinary funding from SAI that would allow new asylum seekers to be hosted in the system of municipalities also through substantial absorption from the CAS system to the SAI, and enhancing the voluntary availability of the Italian population to be connected immediately to the SAI system, without activating parallel systems, to allow competent and integrated management of local services.
● That adequate medical and psychological care are ensured in any case, through the full involvement of public health services and in collaboration with associations and private social organisations with specific expertise in the matter.
Finally, it should be noted that the emergency of the Afghan crisis must be addressed within a framework of coherent policies concerning both humanitarian aid interventions and policies relating to protected entry and reception programs. For this reason, we support the request already made by the representatives of NGOs and Italian bodies and associations to establish a unitary coordination table on Afghanistan that sees the involvement of the Ministries concerned, starting with the MAECI and the Ministry of the Interior, of the representatives of NGOs and Italian bodies and associations belonging to the Asylum and Immigration Table, as well as representatives of Local Bodies and Regions.