“EU has to be united on the Afghanistan crisis”

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has appealed to European Union member states to be united on the Afghanistan crisis in order to avoid a human tragedy – as had happened six years ago in the Syria immigration crisis. Commissioner Johansson was speaking during a conference organised by the European Union Agency for Migration on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of its commencement of operations from Malta.

At the height of summer, Afghanistan was one of the countries from where the European Union Agency for Migration received most requests for shelter from third-country citizens. The other countries were Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Iraq. In July EASO received over 50,000 applications from persons asking for shelter in EU member states.

On the occasion of its tenth year of operation from offices in Valletta, EASO Executive Director Nina Gregori said staff at the agency will increase to 500 in number, so that member states will be given more support for the processing of applications for shelter from third countries.

“We’ll also be present in the third countries and will be able to enhance our capacities there. We will be able to deploy our liaison officers and will be able to support operationally even more.”

The European Union forks out 150 million euro annually for this agency.

Commissioner Ylva Johansson referred to the illegal migration issue, stating that responsibility should be shouldered by member states in order to avoid another tragedy, as had been the case with the 2015 Syrian immigration crisis.

“We always need to manage migration together. With the countries of origin. Countries of transit. Countries of departure. And I think now we have the chance to show that we will not face the situation we had in 2015 where we as a European Union acted too late.”

President George Vella praised the work carried out by EASO, which he described as a success story in supporting migrants; however, he also expressed his disappointment at the lack of agreement between European Union governments on migration. Dr Vella warned that if lack of agreement on this issue between member states persists, it will once again happen that the most exposed countries will be left to fend for themselves. In Dr Vella’s view, Libya remains an important link in the fight against illegal migration.

“Libya is cooperating. And this is clearly reflected through the interception of more than 21,000 persons so far in 2021. Malta is also doing its parts. The various reforms are being put in place to improve our procedures and increase returns. However, arrivals remain dependent on cooperation with the Libyan authorities. We need to assure Libya of our continued support and back-up our promises with targeted actions.”

EASO is the only European Union agency based in Malta and employs 450 staff, the majority being foreigners. EASO also has some 2,000 persons based in another six member states – Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Latvia and Lithuania. With effect from next year, the agency will change its name and will also assume new functions.