Rights groups say EU fails Afghans fleeing Taliban

BRUSSELS (AP) — Human rights and refugee groups appealed Thursday to the European Union to step up its help for people trying to flee Afghanistan, accusing the bloc of failing to do enough to assist those living in fear of Taliban rule.

More than 100,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul in a chaotic exodus late last month after President Joe Biden announced that U.S. troops would withdraw, and the Taliban seized control of strife-torn Afghanistan in just a few weeks. Thousands more Afghans want to leave.

In new figures released Thursday, the EU’s asylum agency said that asylum applications by Afghans numbered 7,300 in July – before the government fell – a 21% increase over June and the fifth consecutive monthly rise. Almost 1,200 were unaccompanied minors, EASO reported. More than half of asylum applications by Afghans in Europe are rejected.

“The EU should be sharing, rather than shirking, the responsibility to offer them protection,” the 24 non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, Caritas Europa, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, and the Red Cross, said in a statement.

The groups warned that 18 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, nearly half the population. More than 630,000 people have been forced from their homes so far this year due to violence and drought.

There was no immediate reaction from the European Union.

Despite the rise in asylum applications, the EU faces no imminent challenge from the arrival of thousands of Afghan refugees, top European officials say. Most Afghans are sheltering in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some European governments sounding the alarm amid deep concern of a repeat of events of 2015, when well over 1 million people entered Europe, most of them fleeing conflict in Syria, sparking one of the EU’s deepest political crises.

“We regret the misleading and alarmist rhetoric expressed by some European leaders in the past weeks,” the groups said. They said such talk “may raise barriers to refugees’ integration and inclusion in European societies” and that it could stoke “fears about a non-existent crisis at Europe’s borders.”

They called on the EU to set up safe pathways for Afghans in need of protection and the establishment of “an ambitious” resettlement program in Europe for people already sheltering in Iran and Pakistan.

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