In the six days since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, Afghans have negotiated a terrifying new reality after enduring 20 years of war and suicide bombings. Their world has been upended, and something as prosaic as a trip to the airport now inspires terror. Just stepping outside the front door can be jarring and disorienting.
To cope with the expected flood of Afghan refugees, the Biden administration wants to enlist commercial airlines to ferry those arriving in Gulf states from Kabul to countries willing to offer them resettlement.
UNCHR estimates that 90 per cent of the 2.6 million Afghan refugees outside of the country live in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. Both countries also host large numbers of Afghans who left in search of better economic opportunities.
Read | Plight of Afghan asylum seekers in UK is not recent
Several other countries have openly said that they would be willing to take in refugees from the country. Here’s a look at the countries admitting refugees from Afghanistan.
The United States has agreed to take in over 10,000 Afghans according to reports, many of whom would be those who helped the American governments during their presence in the country.
As many as 6,000 people — including former interpreters and cultural and political advisers — were on standby to be flown out of Kabul’s airport as of early Friday morning, after a days-long pause in the processing of visas for Afghans who had worked for the American military or embassy during the 20-year war, the State Department said.
Thousands more are expected to be vetted and evacuated on a daily basis after a small influx of consular officers and other diplomats. About 100,000 Afghans were seeking evacuation through a US visa program meant to provide refuge to Afghans who had worked with Americans, as well as family members, said Rebecca Heller, head of the US-based International Refugee Assistance Program.
At the request of the United States, Uganda has agreed to temporarily take in 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan. Esther Anyakun, Uganda’s state minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees said that the President of the African country, Museveni, has asked her to prepare for the arrival of 2,000 refugees.
Media reports had suggested that Uganda — already home to the biggest refugee population in Africa — had agreed to take about 2,000 refugees but this was not confirmed in the ministry statement.
“Following the events of last weekend in Afghanistan, the government of the United States of America reached out to several of its international partners including Uganda to assist in the likely event of the need to temporarily host some of the Afghans and international citizens that may be evacuated,” a statement said.
Britain announced a resettlement scheme for Afghans fleeing the Taliban after their return to power, offering an initial 5,000 places in the first year, rising to up to 20,000 in the long term.
“This resettlement scheme will be kept under further review for future years, with up to a total of 20,000 in the long term,” the Home Office said in a statement.
The scheme is modelled on that which resettled 20,000 refugees from the Syria conflict from 2014 to this year.
London said priority would be given to those most at risk, including Afghan women, children and others forced to flee or facing threats and persecution from the hardliners, offering them a chance to remain in Britain indefinitely.
Canada would consider taking in additional Afghan refugees on behalf of the United States or other allies if asked to do so, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said on Friday.
Canada is part of a coalition of countries frantically trying to evacuate Afghan citizens who supported Western missions in Afghanistan over the years, amidst a Taliban takeover of the country that occurred in days, rather than months as expected.
The independent tribunal that assesses asylum claims in Canada has agreed to expedite Afghan refugee applications, a crucial step for asylum claimants to reunite with their families, the minister said.
Separately, last week Canada committed to resettling 20,000 Afghan refugees who have already fled the country, and on Friday Mendicino said the government was keeping “an open mind” about potentially increasing that number.
Haunted by a 2015 migration crisis fuelled by the Syrian war, European leaders desperately want to avoid another large-scale influx of refugees and migrants from Afghanistan.
Except for those who helped Western forces in the country’s two-decade war, the message to Afghans considering fleeing to Europe is: If you must leave, go to neighbouring countries but don’t come here.
EU officials told a meeting of interior ministers this week that the most important lesson from 2015 was not to leave Afghans to their own devices, and that without urgent humanitarian help they will start moving, according to a confidential German diplomatic memo obtained by The Associated Press.
EU Council President Charles Michel acknowledged the challenges facing Europe when he visited Madrid on Saturday to tour Spain’s emergency hub for Afghan refugees.
Also Read | Pakistan took in most Afghan refugees in 2020, India at 12th place after UK
Iran and Pakistan
According to data by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for 2020, Pakistan housed the most refugees from Afghanistan, nearly 14.3 lakh, followed by Iran which took in 7.8 lakh refugees, Germany which took 1.4 lakh Afghans.
Both countries have not made clear the number of refugees they are willing to take, however, due to geographic proximity, ease of access and similarities in culture, it is likely that both countries will take in the highest number of refugees from the strife-torn state.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also said the country is unprepared for an influx, but the government is thinking up a comprehensive strategy to isolate refugees near the border.
Iran, which shares a 900-km border with the war-torn nation, plans to house refugees in three provinces, where it has set up tents. But it will emphasise repatriating once conditions improve in the country.
India stands at 12th place, having taken only 8,275 Afghan refugees in 2020 behind Australia and United Kingdom. United States took in 1,592 refugees in the same year.
India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and hence, there is no set process to accept refugees and is decided on an ad-hoc basis.
India announced that it will issue an emergency e-visa to Afghan nationals who want to come to the country in view of the prevailing situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban captured power there.
All Afghans, irrespective of their religion, can apply for the ‘e-Emergency X-Misc Visa’ online and the applications will be processed in New Delhi.
Officials said since Indian missions in Afghanistan are shut, the visa can be applied online and applications will be examined and processed in New Delhi. The visa will initially be valid for six months, they said.
(With inputs from agencies)
Here are the countries accepting Afghan refugees – Deccan Herald