Last week I could announce some very good news: 15 EU Member States agreed to help 60,000 refugees. Help them through resettlement and humanitarian admission: providing a safe journey to a welcome in the European Union. This includes almost 40,000 Afghans. So that’s 60,000 people in need of protection who won’t pay a fortune to smugglers, won’t end up on a rubber boat on the Mediterranean, suffocating in an air-tight van or freezing in a deadly cold forest at the Eastern EU border, tricked and trapped by Lukashenko. Without drama, without headlines, they will be able to start rebuilding their lives in the EU.

It is an even better result than I dared hope for earlier this year. Since 2015, almost 90,000 refugees found a new home in the EU since 2015 thanks to Member States efforts, and supported by EU coordination and funds.

However, the pandemic pushed the pause button on resettlement. In OECD countries, resettlement dropped by 65%. So it was urgent to give a kick-start. This urgency only increased with the rapid collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

I initiated the High-Level Resettlement Forum, and followed up with the High-Level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk, in October. There I called on the Member States to increase efforts. The Member States rose to the challenge.

At the time, I hoped for around 30,000. The Member States pledged twice that number. That is an important act of solidarity. Of which they can be justifiably proud.

For understandable reasons, the focus is on Afghanistan. Our decision to launch the multi-annual support scheme for Afghans has paid off.

Now the EU can confirm that it has identified the financial resources that can cover the commitments made by Member States. This should give the Member States sufficient security to follow through on these efforts by the end of 2022.

The sense of responsibility of EU Member States to those Afghans in need is important in two ways. Functionally, it shows how Member State infrastructure and EU funding can be best coordinated. Morally, it shows that we are willing to help a generation who tried to build democratic values in their country of origin. This point matters. It matters because it is part of our ongoing efforts to help build societies, and economies, around the globe. More functioning societies mean less sense of having no option but to migrate. This is an oft-overlooked part of the migration debate.

We have said repeatedly that overall migration into the EU works. 2.5 million get residents permits every year. 1.5 million leave. OECD this year has provide the positive economic contribution new arrivals are making.

Yet it is the irregular arrivals that garner the headlines. An important reason is because  irregular routes are dangerous and in more than 90 percent of travels are managed by human smugglers.  People coming on those routes are at high risk to be subject to robbery, rape, exploitation, kidnapping and even drowning or freezing to death. This is not the way into the EU. An important part of the proposed Pact is to stop irregular migration and have more options to legal ways to come here and work or study.

These efforts to improve the lives of almost 40,000 by Member States are a message to the world that the EU is committed to two things. Helping building fairer societies around the world. Societies that people are not desperate to leave. And secondly, painful as it is, where those efforts fail, the EU does not leave behind those who tried to build those societies. The EU cannot take everyone. It cannot even take a huge number.

But it can take those whose immediate survival is at risk because of the effort they made.

Those people who tried to make a difference in Afghanistan, who built schools for girls, who constructed a legal system, who started public debate, who looked to build economic stability on democratic fairness are heroes. Their lives are at risk.

The announcement I made on Thursday shows that my view is shared. It is shared by a majority of EU Member States.

It is the best of the EU put into action. Trying to build democracy, stabilise societies.

And standing behind those willing to risk everything in that struggle.

 

 

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