I want to tell you about an Afghan girl. A teenager.
I can’t use her real name. That might be dangerous, for her family.
She loves playing football. And this is not easy in Afghanistan, even before the Taliban.
She really had to convince her mother to let her play football.
But now she plays for the Afghan national team.
Then the Taliban came and destroyed everything.
They oppress women who play football.
Why? She says: “The Taliban are scared of women improving. Because they know how powerful, how strong women are.”
When the phone call came to flee, she was just packing her bags for practice.
On the run for weeks, months. She feared for her life. For her family.
She said “I was afraid – but I was strong”
And now she is in Portugal. Along with 25 of her team mates and family members. Thanks to a global effort to get them out. And thanks to Portugal, for taking them in.
Last week she played football for the first time in six months. With Benfica – a famous club.
She said it: was so good to enter the field again, to feel the grass again to touch the ball again.
She feels safe. But she’s worried about her teammates, and family who couldn’t leave.
She dreams big. She wants to be a famous footballer. But most of all she wants a peaceful life. And to help her people and Afghanistan.
And this is our mission here today. And we need to act now. The situation in Afghanistan is dire.
A perfect storm is brewing. A political crisis, on top of security crisis, an economic crisis, a social crisis and a humanitarian crisis.
More than 3 million Afghans are internally displaced.
Inflation is rampant. Food prices are up by 50%. More than 90% of Afghans face the threat of hunger. The health system is at risk of collapse. And so is the economy.
There are worrying reports of oppression.
And those who worked with us and share our values have most to lose.
Reports of interpreters and their families being bullied and threatened. Of human rights workers arrested.
And it’s worse for women and girls. Often afraid to go to school or work.
There are reports of women journalists and civil servants being fired from their jobs.
And of women judges hunted down, by the men they put in jail.
As an immediate response the European Union has increased humanitarian aid to over 300 million euro. As part of our Afghan Support Package. Member States have pledged almost 700 million.
And EU Member States already offer protection to Afghans. Nearly 300,000 Afghans have a residence permit and live in Europe.
But most importantly. We have saved lives. Following the collapse of Kabul, the Member States quickly evacuated all staff. And you Member States succeeded in evacuating 22,000 Afghans.
But there are more people in need of protection. Providing that protection won’t solve the Afghan crisis.
But it’s our moral duty. And our task for today.
Today, I propose a specific, multi-annual, Support Scheme for Afghans at Risk.
In the short term, we must continue to provide safe passage for Afghans at risk. Judges, journalists, human rights defenders. Especially women.
You have asked for financial support and coordination. We can do both.
In the medium and long term, we must step up resettlement and humanitarian admissions. As soon as the conditions allow. Hand in hand with partner countries in the region. And with UNHCR
And we must also consider other protection pathways. For families, for students and others. Underpinned by community sponsorship.
Cities are offering to host refugees.
Universities want to host Afghan scientists.
Society is mobilising. As leaders, we can’t stay behind.
Integration is key. When stepping up on integration, for these 22,000 Afghans that recently came to Europe, I encourage you to listen to Europe’s Afghan diaspora – nearly 300,000 strong.
I need your political support and active engagement to put this support scheme in practice. To make it operational, I will put in place a special task force. And host regular forums on resettlement.
This day, is dedicated to Afghanistan.
Today I want to hear from you. How can you contribute to our support scheme? In the short term with evacuations – in medium term by stepping up resettlement and humanitarian admissions.
And I ask you to step up your efforts. You have made an encouraging number of resettlement pledges – 20,000 – for priorities like Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Today, I encourage you to complement those efforts with additional pledges for Afghans. This would be the core of our future multi-annual support scheme.
And we need to do this as part of a global effort. With the US, who pledged to resettle 125,000 globally. Canada, who pledged to host 40,000 Afghans. And the United Kingdom, who pledged to welcome 20,000 Afghans.
And of course, with the support of UNHCR and IOM. And our upgraded EU Asylum agency.
We must protect those who worked for us. And who are under attack because they share our values.
Talented people, who can contribute to Europe.
A win for Afghans at risk and a win for Europe.
I only have to think of this brave young girl, this strong, powerful young Afghan teenage footballer.
She has found safety.
And when we face the European football championships next year, I guess Portugal will be having a very strong team, and maybe she will be part of that.