TribuneJavier Benavides Malo

Afghans. Some ideas on how to ensure the defense of human rights

The most important thing is to ensure the safety of the Afghan population. After the evacuations, it is necessary to deal with the reception of these people in Spain and different EU countries. Mobilization and commitment of the civil society are crucial for a real reception.  

September 1, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

The recent events in Afghanistan are a further illustration of the world we are building. Western society boasts of its rule of law and its commitment to human rights worldwide, which was embodied in the Bonn Agreements of 2001, signed by Western states with a commitment to create a new Afghanistan based on these premises. However, the outcome has been very mixed. 

After the collapse of the Afghan reconstruction government and in the absence of a withdrawal strategy, the most important thing in the coming days for the international community is to ensure the safety of the Afghan population, especially those people who, due to their profession, vocation or situation, are more vulnerable to the new Taliban government. Spain has set itself up as an example of effectiveness in managing the evacuation of these people. The coordination of our diplomats and military in the work of departure and arrival to our country, with the establishment of accommodation in the bases of Torrejón, Morón and Rota is being commendable and can mark a turning point in our foreign policy, demonstrating the great capacity and preparation of senior officials of the Spanish State in crisis situations and in international relations of the XXI century.

However, evacuation is only the starting point, because now we have to deal with the reception of these people in Spain and in different countries of the European Union. The 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1978 Protocol define a refugee in Article 1 as a person who "with a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.". This implies that once the Afghan population has been rendered safe in the countries participating in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force of Afghanistan) and its allies, they must apply for this refugee or asylum status according to the respective national regulations of the host country.

Therefore, the arrival of the Afghans at the Spanish bases will mark only the beginning of their new life. Now, they will have to determine the final host country, deal with the regulatory procedures that recognize them as refugees, the social and political acceptance in these countries and the adaptation to a new life, with the uncertainty of not knowing when they will be able to return to their homes. 

In the United States and some European states, voices have already emerged that are not so favorable to the reception of the Afghan population, both for economic, social and political reasons and for fear that among the evacuated Afghans there may be terrorists who could introduce cells into the West. Politicians are often the first to show these reservations, largely out of fear and for short-term, electioneering purposes. Fears that can be countered as long as a good reception and adaptation strategy is put in place. To this end, the mobilization and commitment of civil society is crucial to ensure a real and effective reception. It is essential to raise the awareness of both the host and the receiving society in order to favor the adaptation of both in exceptional circumstances.

In Spain, Law 12/2009, of October 30, 2009, regulating the right to asylum and subsidiary protection, sets out the procedures, requirements and rights of refugees in Spain in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The work of entities such as UNHCR, Caritas, Pueblos Unidos or the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), among others, is impressive and key to the accompaniment of Afghans arriving in Spain and to ensure the obtaining of refugee status and their adaptation to the host States. The European Union has once again the opportunity to be an example of guarantor and defender of human rights, having the urgent task of organizing the reception of this Afghan population and establishing a practical and effective international strategy based on human rights.

The current situation in Afghanistan shows that every time there is a humanitarian catastrophe anywhere, states act according to their interests and politicians and society respond with thousands of reactions on the networks, eager to collect a lot of money. "likes". This individualistic and instantaneous tendency of society means that the response to a critical situation is often not adapted to the real needs due to a lack of collective vision and transversality. It is time to believe that every society is enriched by putting itself at the service of others and that collective action, breaking distrust, is the best investment to ensure the defense of human rights.

The authorJavier Benavides Malo

Teacher of dnternational law pThe public of the Villanueva University

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