Countries prepare for influx of Afghan refugees as crisis deepens

Passengers trying to fly out of Kabul International Airport amid the Taliban offensive wait in line in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, August 13, 2021.
Passengers trying to fly out of Kabul International Airport amid the Taliban offensive wait in line in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, August 13, 2021. Tameem Akghar/AP Photo
  • As the Taliban tightens its grip on Afghanistan, more refugees are expected to evacuate the country.
  • The International Organization for Migration estimates that since international troops started withdrawing in May, at least 30,000 have fled the country weekly.
  • The US has said it’s looking to take in 30,000 Afghan refugees, while Canada has said it will resettle 20,000.
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Thousands have fled Kabul in recent days as the Taliban reclaimed power in Afghanistan, and countries are bracing themselves for a mass influx of refugees.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that since international troops started pulling out of the country in May, at least 30,000 have fled from the country per week, mainly to neighboring Iran, reported Gandhara, a news site that reports on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Since the start of this year, almost 400,000 Afghans have been forced from their homes and displaced internally, with children and women making up 80% of those fleeing, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said. On Friday, the agency called on countries to “keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis in Afghanistan.”

The US said it’s looking to take in 30,000 refugees on Special Immigration Visas (SIV). SIVs are given to those who are employed or work on behalf of the US government. The White House announced on Monday an additional $500 million in funding for refugee relocation, including SIV applicants.

Canada said Friday that it will resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, but it’s unclear what the timeline of the relocation will be. “Offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable speaks to who we are as Canadians, particularly in times of crisis,” said Marco Mendicino, the country’s minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship.

The UK is in the process of drafting plans to take in refugees, the BBC reported, and said it will be similar in scope to its 2014 Syrian refugee resettlement program, which took in around 20,000 people. The UK completed the resettlements in 2021, according to the UNHCR.

The US asked Albania and Kosovo to temporarily host Afghans seeking entry to the country, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

“I am devastated to see people left behind and want to give them at least the possibility to breathe again,” Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, told The Guardian.

North Macedonia also said Sunday that the country will accept Afghan civilians until “a more permanent solution” is found, the Balkan Times reported.

Meanwhile, European countries including Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and France have suspended the deportations of Afghan refugees in their countries as the security situation worsens, The Guardian reported. It isn’t known if these countries will aid in the permanent resettlement of new refugees.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on countries to take in Afghan refugees.

“As the world is following events in Afghanistan with a heavy heart, I urge all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees and refrain from deportations, ” Guterres wrote in a tweet Tuesday, saying “Afghans have known generations of war and hardship. They deserve our full support.”

Pakistan activist Malala Yousafzai also called on the global community to open its borders to Afghan refugees. The 24-year-old was shot by Taliban forces in 2012 and was sent to the UK to receive treatment, where she currently lives.

“I think every country has a role and responsibility right now,” Yousafzai said during a BBC interview, saying “countries need to open their borders to Afghan refugees, the displaced people.”