Borrell expresses ‘great fears’ over humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
EU foreign policy chief plays down fears about mass migration from the country.
Around 5 million people in Afghanistan are “at imminent risk of starvation and death,” the EU’s foreign policy chief warned Tuesday, adding that he had “great fears” about the bloc’s ability to help them.
Speaking to the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, Josep Borrell said, however, that he does not believe the EU will face large-scale migration from Afghanistan as only a limited number of people are able to leave the country and make their way to Europe.
“There are some 5 million in the north [of Afghanistan] who are under direct threat of dire famine … [they] are at imminent risk of starvation and death,” Borrell told MEPs. “And they are going to have to get through the winter somehow, but at the moment their situation is so bad that they won’t even make it to the winter. But once the snow comes, it will be difficult to even get food into the country and to distribute it to these rural areas,” he continued.
Borrell added: “I have great fears as to how we can [deal with] this effectively.”
His warning comes as the World Food Programme said earlier this month that food supplies for millions in the country risk running out by the end of the month. Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban last month amid a collapse of the previous, Western-backed government and its security forces. The northern Panjshir valley has seen heavy fighting in recent days between Taliban fighters and rebels opposing the new rulers of the country.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last month she would propose “to almost quadruple” EU aid to Afghanistan to over €200 million this year.
Borrell said the EU was ready to engage with the Taliban and considering re-staffing its mission in Kabul, while demanding that Afghanistan must not become a safe haven for terrorists. He also urged the Taliban to respect human rights, guarantee the rule of law and media freedom, and establish “an inclusive and representative transitional government,” while acknowledging that the Taliban’s actions already ran counter to many of these demands.
The foreign policy chief also sought to play down concerns among some MEPs that the dire situation in northern Afghanistan would lead to mass migration to the EU.
“It’s not that we’re afraid that [these 5 million people] are going to emigrate and cause problems here back home in Europe,” he said, adding that many of them “are not even going to get near going through the mountains” that they would have to cross in order to leave the country.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a huge migration to Europe unless there was going to be a civil war, but it’s not looking as if there’s going to be any imminent civil war,” Borrell said.
“What is happening is that the people who want to migrate are people from the middle classes in the cities who have seen rapid development over the last two decades and are probably keen to [move to] America and Australia and are more likely to do so than come to Europe,” he added.
The European Commission and EU interior ministers discussed at the end of last month offering large sums of money to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to host refugees and stop them from continuing toward Europe.