OSCE parliamentarians discuss situation in Afghanistan at meeting of Ad Hoc Committee on Migration

Kristian Vigenin 240921Kristian VigeninCOPENHAGEN, 24 September 2021 – The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan was in focus today at a virtual meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, featuring participation of the Norwegian Refugee Council and the International Organization for Migration.

Introduced by OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt (Sweden) and newly appointed Ad Hoc Committee Chair Kristian Vigenin (Bulgaria), the meeting focused on how Afghanistan’s internal situation is impacting refugee flows to the OSCE region. Members discussed the acute food insecurity facing Afghans and the potential for total economic collapse in the country, as well as the challenges that this could pose for an already strained migration management system in Europe.

In her opening remarks, President Cederfelt noted that Afghanistan is one of many migration management challenges facing the OSCE area, and one that the OSCE should promptly address by promoting good practices for governments. “Working closely with the OSCE and its institutions and identifying synergies is key in an area where there are so many actors seeking to promote effective migration governance,” she said.

Astrid Sletten 240921Astrid SlettenThe desperate attempts by Afghans to flee their country following the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban last month and fears of a new migration crisis have reignited divisions between OSCE participating States regarding migration, noted Vigenin. He pointed out that Afghanistan is facing a looming humanitarian crisis, with some 18 million Afghans in immediate need of aid, and that one in three are going hungry. The UN has warned that half a million Afghans could leave their country by the end of the year, Vigenin pointed out, and that many will likely be migrating to OSCE participating States.

“The OSCE has a long-standing relationship with Afghanistan as a Partner for Co-operation since 2003 and is committed to ensuring the security, stability and safety of all people in Afghanistan, the region and beyond,” Vigenin said. “Today we focus on what we, as members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, can do to uphold the commitments of the OSCE in the human dimension and, more concretely, what we can do to prevent a new migration crisis or rather a crisis of migration governance.”

Ad Hoc Committee members also heard from Astrid Sletten, Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Afghanistan, and Elizabeth Collett, Special Advisor to the Director General of the International Organization for Migration.

Sletten and Collett described the dire situation in Afghanistan, which has been impacted by four decades of war, recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic. IOM’s primary concern is how to address the mass internal displacement numbering 5.5 million, with 635,000 Afghans internally displaced this year alone due to economic and environmental factors as well as conflict.

The reality on the ground is that Afghans are in the midst of an economic collapse, Sletten said, with banks shuttered and people unable to access their savings. She described the difficulties of humanitarian work in Afghanistan, highlighting the legal and ethical dilemmas of working with the Taliban, and stressed that NGOs cannot replace public sector engagement. Emphasis should be placed on protection of civilians, she said, reiterating that governments must prioritize financial aid.

Collett described the internal migration situation and said that IOM is focusing on maintaining livelihoods for civilians and shoring up access to essential services. It is also critical to support neighboring countries which will bear the brunt of increased regional migration, Collett underlined, pointing out that while we do not see largescale movement at the moment, this could quickly change if the situation deteriorates. She also highlighted the heightened vulnerability of women to trafficking during times of crisis, expecting to see an increase in the number of trafficking victims from Afghanistan.

240921 SJLSheila Jackson LeeIn the discussion, OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee members stressed the need for simultaneously addressing humanitarian needs and improving migration management, with a focus on responsibility sharing. The burden of dealing with migration must not fall entirely on countries of southern Europe or Turkey, it was pointed out. Members raised points about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and how policy decisions have led to the current situation. It is therefore more important than ever to now stand with the people of Afghanistan, it was stressed. Concerns were also raised about the status of women parliamentarians in Afghanistan.

Also on the agenda of the meeting today was Vice-Chair Gudrun Kugler (Austria)’s report on her visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina on 11-14 July with OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Valiant Richey. The visit was very productive, she said, consisting of several days of meetings and talking to migrants about their difficult living conditions.

In particular, Kugler reported, the visit focused on how to improve the identification of and assistance to victims of trafficking among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers transiting through the country. She also encouraged the committee to further pursue such collaborations and optimize the use of OSCE expertise and resources, also on the ground.

Chair Vigenin also briefed the committee members on possible upcoming activities of the committee.

For more information on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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