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Spotlight | Beyond the line
September 09, 2021

What solidarity for Afghanistan?

There were many declarations of solidarity that followed the fall of Kabul. However, we are interested in understanding how much of this political and media reaction is taking place, how and for whom. We asked Oliviero Forti - responsible for migration policies and international protection - and Daniele Albanese - responsible for the International Humanitarian Corridors Area - to help us shed light.

Recent events in Afghanistan have generated an emotional wave and a "sudden" interest in the fate of Afghan refugees – in particular for collaborators from Western countries in Afghanistan, as well as for the groups of individuals that are most at risk. However, the information which is circulating is confusing and, again, above all emotional, with regards to the paths provided for those who have managed to arrive, in our case in Italy. Can you help to clarify the planned integration paths?

The response of solidarity that we saw in the very first days after the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, with the emergency rescue flights implemented by the Italian authorities, must be followed by an integration plan that guarantees adequate standards for refugees. In particular, it could be the right time to make progress, at the legislative level if necessary, to convey the great support that individuals, families, communities and associations have shown.

At the moment about 4,900 Afghan citizens have arrived in Italy, who, after the quarantine period, will be welcomed in the SAI system, managed by the municipalities, and in the CAS, through the Prefectures. We say clearly that with these numbers for this group, there is no problem of finding shelter, and as a Caritas network we have made ourselves available to the authorities to find solutions immediately for hundreds of people, including for example many collaborators of our mission to Herat, the Afghan women's football team in Caritas Florence or the researchers of the Veronesi Foundation in Kabul in Caritas Ambrosiana. What must not happen, however, is to offload the responsibilities (and also the costs) of the reception on the local communities with agreements of limited duration or the complete delegation to associations.

In order to effectively integrate Afghan refugees into our society quickly and help them find a future in Italy, it is necessary to rely on the local communities that have made themselves available with accompaniment and training through professional operators. We propose to look at the Community Sponsorship model already active in several countries, and at the consolidated experience of community involvement of the Humanitarian Corridors, to introduce a coherent and sustainable system. Let us remember that the Afghan crisis situation will certainly not end soon and we must be prepared to face the challenge of legal and safe migration in the best possible way.

In this impetus of European solidarity, we forget that for a long time now there have been many Afghans in and on the borders of Europe: among those who are already in Europe, some received a denial of the application for asylum or protection and a decree of expulsion in the months before the these current events. Those who are close to the borders have often been brutally rejected through transit or first landing countries (such as Croatia), even as minors. Do you have any information or insekers about a change of treatment in the light of recent events, both in Italy and in other European countries? Do you see the possibility of an improvement for the fate of these people?

During the days when we worked to save the lives of Afghan citizens fleeing Kabul, at the European borders they were even rejecting compatriots in an attempt to seek protection, a perspective of Europe on migrants that we have often denounced. There are about 300,000 Afghan citizens in Europe who must be guaranteed a form of protection and thousands on the Balkan route who must not be rejected at the border. This is what we ask of Europe, complicit in having left Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban, but statements about this are not available for now.

Many left Afghanistan over land in the weeks and months leading up since their villages were being taken over, or even earlier, as the violence is not a recent one. Others have left in recent weeks. On the one hand Europe expresses solidarity, but on the other Turkey, paid by Europe to contain the influx of immigrants, is building a wall on the border with Iran... In light of recent events, is there any possibility of organizing a sort of emergency Humanitarian Corridor, starting with Iran?

We are working with the Italian authorities to explore the operational possibilities of implementing Humanitarian Corridors or rapid evacuations from third countries where refugees first find asylum, such as Iran or Pakistan. Let us remember that there are many people who have already been cleared and often have family members in Italy, who have not been able to enter the planes in the tragic days of the evacuations, to which an immediate response must be given.

The operational premises and the availability of international organizations are all there. It remains to be understood, however, how we intend to welcome and integrate the people who could be brought to Italy, and how the government intends to act in support of the solidarity movement of local communities.
As a Caritas network we are ready to do our part both on the international front and with regard to integration within a framework of co-responsibility with the authorities.

More generally, based on your institutional contacts and beyond the statements to the media, does it seem to you that the prevailing concern of Europe at this stage is to really welcome refugees, or to curb the flow and save their reputation?

The rift between the Member States on the issue of migration are evident, but the Afghan crisis is only the latest event to highlight this. Once again, we fear that border externalization policies will prevail so as to not let migrants arrive on European soil, and to defer to most neighboring countries, which already host millions of Afghan citizens, forced to leave their country in recent years.
Certainly any path to save a single extra person will be significant, but not sufficient for the sustainable and stable management of migration flows in anticipation from Afghanistan and the Middle East.


fotografia di Max Hirzel. B. and S., two Afghan refugees, minors, in Principovac refugee camp, in Serbia (2019).




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