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European Official: We Have A 'Moral Duty' To Help Afghan Refugees

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson arrives for a meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson arrives for a meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.

Updated September 17, 2021 at 8:34 AM ET

European Commissioner Ylva Johansson believes Europe has an obligation to help Afghan refugees.

"We have a lot of people that have been fighting for our values and done that in a real good way in Afghanistan. And it's our moral duty now to do everything we can to protect them and evacuate them to a safe home," Johansson told NPR's Rachel Martin.

Johansson, who handles migration and home affairs for the bloc, has been working to reach a deal, but the 27 EU member nations have yet to agree.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen criticized the holdouts in her annual State of the Union address, saying that they must work together on a solution.

"This ultimately comes down to a question of trust. Trust between member states. Trust for Europeans that migration can be managed. Trust that Europe will always live up to its enduring duty to the most vulnerable and most in need," von der Leyen said.

Johansson believes part of that mistrust stems from 2015, when more than a million people came to Europe seeking asylum. Many were from Syria.

"We were not prepared and we reacted too late," Johansson said. "We are much better prepared and we should not wait until people have been smuggled and [are] suffering and coming to the EU's external borders. The best way to avoid that is to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan."

She says politicians need to step back from "dramatizing" the issue of migration.

"Migration is normal," she said. "Migration has always been here, will always be here. Of course, we have challenges, but they are manageable. And if you start panicking and being afraid of migration, then you will not be able to manage in a humane and orderly way."


This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

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