Europe

Ursula von der Leyen says it is a ‘moral duty’ to help Afghans

The European Commission president said that EU countries had a “moral duty” to help Afghans.

“The European Union is firmly committed to continue supporting the NGOs operating in the country,” Ursula von der Leyen said, stating that millions of women and children were internally displaced within the country.

She added that the EU would increase their humanitarian aid but warned that the international community needed to prevent people from falling into the hands of smugglers.

The Afghan situation must be a central concern of next week’s G-7 meeting to help create “legal and safe routes globally, organised by us, the international community, for those who need protection,” the Commission president added.

“This resettlement of vulnerable people is of utmost importance,” she said. “It is our moral duty.”

Many EU governments are concerned that the crisis in Afghanistan could lead to a migrant crisis like the one in 2015.

Meanwhile she said that aid would also be tied to respect for human rights and women and girls.

“We hear the Taliban statement that stresses that women will have their right place in society and be able to study and work, within the framework of Islam, whatever that means. But we also hear more and more reports of people being hunted down for their past work or their opinions, and we hear of women being turned away when they show up at their usual workplace,” she said.

“The 1 billion euros in EU funds set aside in development aid for the next seven years is tied to strict conditions: respect for human rights, good treatment of minorities, and respect for the rights of women and girls.”

Contact with Taliban does not mean recognition

EU leaders warned on Saturday that the current conversations held to secure the exit of Afghan evacuees do not mean the bloc is prepared to recognise the new regime.

While EU leaders have contacts with the Taliban to facilitate evacuations, those conversations are distinct from political talks, they said.

Council President Charles Michel and EU high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell toured the facility at the Torrejón military airbase along with von der Leyen and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez who said it can hold 800 people.

Two planes sent by Spain to Kabul have already arrived at the air base. The air base is also receiving flights from the European Union with other Afghan evacuees.

Von der Leyen said EU staff is talking with American and NATO officials on the problem but also working “on the ground” in Kabul.

“It is a very difficult situation, it is changing by the minute, but there is intense work being done to make the best of a very difficult situation,” she said.


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