Thousands of people are trying to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country, almost 20 years after the US-led coalition toppled it. Where will the refugees go?
The Taliban control all major land border points with neighboring countries. The militants said they did not want Afghans to flee the country. According to the BBC, only traders or persons with valid travel documents can cross the border. A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday:
“The vast majority of Afghans cannot leave the country through normal channels. Today, those who may be in danger have no clear way out. “
Where are the Afghan refugees going? Neighboring Pakistan and Iran registered the largest number of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers last year. According to the UNHCR, almost 1.5 million people fled to Pakistan in 2020, and 780,000 people found refuge in Iran. In third place was Germany, which sheltered 180,000 people, Turkey is slightly behind – about 130,000 people.
If we consider only the number of asylum seekers – those who have applied for asylum but have not yet received a positive response – Turkey, Germany and Greece top the list, approximately 125,000, 33,000 and 20,000, respectively.
After the fall of Afghanistan, some countries have mercifully offered refugees to the Afghans, while others strongly refuse to provide shelter to refugees.
Iran has set up tents for refugees in 3 provinces near the border with Afghanistan. However, the authorities, in particular senior officials from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said regarding the refugees: “As soon as conditions improve, they will be repatriated.” According to the UN, this country already hosts 3.5 million Afghans.
Pakistan was going to close the border with Afghanistan in the event of a Taliban victory, as the country’s prime minister announced in July. But several thousand Afghans have crossed into its territory, and at least one border crossing is open.
Several hundred Afghans have already moved to Tajikistan in recent days, including soldiers of the Afghan National Army. In July, Tajikistan announced its readiness to accept up to 100,000 refugees from Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan: About 1,500 Afghans crossed the Uzbek border and camped.
Great Britain has announced its readiness to accept 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, but in the long term. The resettlement program, according to the British government, is aimed at allowing 5,000 Afghans to settle in the country within the first year. Priority will be given to women and children, and those most at risk from the Taliban.
The US has not announced the exact number of refugees it will accept. President Joe Biden has allocated $ 500 million for “the unexpected and urgent needs of refugees, conflict victims and others at risk from the situation in Afghanistan, including special immigrant visa applicants.”
Canada has declared its readiness to host 20,000 Afghans. Priority is given to those at risk from the Taliban, including civil servants and women leaders.
Australia will offer 3,000 places for leaving Afghans as part of a humanitarian visa program. But they will be provided from the existing program, and their total number will not increase.
Officials of the European departments disagreed over the advisability of placing the evacuated refugees in European countries. Some of them say they are keen to avoid a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis.
Germany said it would accept a number of Afghans, but did not elaborate. Chancellor Angela Merkel notes that her government was inclined to ensure that refugees “stay safely in countries neighboring Afghanistan.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said:
Europe must “defend itself against significant waves of illegal migrants” from Afghanistan. France “will protect those most at risk,” but “Europe cannot cope with the consequences of the current situation alone.”
Austria has ruled out admitting Afghan refugees. The country’s interior minister has advocated continued deportation of failed Afghan asylum seekers and lobbied for the establishment of “deportation centers” in countries neighboring Afghanistan, where direct deportation to Afghanistan is not possible.
Switzerland has refused to accept large groups of refugees arriving directly from Afghanistan.
The Turkish government has stepped up the construction of a wall on the border with Iran to protect against migrants. President Erdogan said the authorities will work with Pakistan to help stabilize the situation and prevent the flow of refugees.
North Macedonia and Albania, at the request of the United States, will temporarily host 450 and 300 refugees, respectively. They will remain there until the paperwork for an immigrant visa to the United States is processed. Kosovo does not specify the number of refugees it is ready to accept on similar conditions.
Uganda is ready to accept 2,000 Afghan refugees.