Afghan People; to leave Afghanistan towards Iran

Poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan have been cited as major causes of people fleeing to foreign countries. Although the exact number of people leaving the country daily is not known, but with the coming to power of the Taliban-led government, hundreds of families are smuggled to neighboring countries, especially Iran, every day. The Los Angeles Times also reported that Iran hosts about 10 percent of Afghanistan’s population.

Every day, about 2,000 people enter Iran through the Nimroz border by smugglers

People who intend to smuggle into Iran say they have been forced to leave the country because of extreme poverty and unemployment, accepting the risk of death.
People trying to enter Iran through the Nimroz border are from different provinces of Afghanistan.
One of the passengers on this road says that there are many dangers on this road. “There is a 90 percent chance of death and a 10 percent chance of survival.”
Everyone who intends to travel to Iran pursues the same goal.
Find a piece of bread for their family

Two to three thousand people cross the border from Iran every day and immigrants are mistreated.
Immigration officials say. “We are trying to talk to the Iranian authorities about the plight of Afghan refugees so that they will not be beaten again.”

What’s Next for Afghans Fleeing the Taliban?

This document was updated on September 9 to reflect that the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service has resumed operations internationally from Kabul airport and some domestic flights are operating. The media reported that on September 9, a Qatar Airways flight departed from Kabul’s international airport carrying around 200 passengers.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 caused tens of thousands of Afghans to flee, often by taking desperate measures. Many others who want to flee are still seeking secure safe passage out of the country. Countless Afghans remain at risk of being targeted for their past work or association with coalition forces, Afghanistan’s former government, international development programs, media, civil society, and other organizations promoting human rights. Women and girls and their families, especially those who fear that they can no longer work or study, are also motivated to flee the country.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has projected that a half million Afghans may seek to leave by the end of 2021. Many Afghans fear persecution or reprisals under Taliban rule and hope to seek asylum or other pathways to safely migrate abroad. Some Afghans already outside the country are looking for temporary protection or permanent legal status abroad.

This question-and-answer document analyzes the policy responses of governments to Afghanistan’s refugee crisis from a human rights perspective.

  1. Are all Afghans who leave the country entitled to refugee status?

No one should be forcibly returned to Afghanistan at this time, and all Afghans need at least temporary, if not permanent, legal protection.

Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Persecution based on gender, including gender discrimination and persecution based on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identity, can also form the basis for refugee status. The threat of being tortured or of inhuman or degrading treatment provides grounds for nonrefoulement (non-return) under international human rights law.

Often in situations of crisis, large groups of people are recognized as refugees on a so-called prima facie basis, meaning their refugee status is recognized simply based on their nationality or other shared characteristics. Countries can also provide people with temporary protection without making a refugee status determination.

All Afghan asylum seekers should be accorded refugee status on a prima facie basis or given access to fair and effective processes for determining their status and protection needs. At a minimum, they should be provided temporary protection while status determinations are pending.

Afghans have faced 40 years of war in their country, and many have been forced to flee, sometimes repeatedly, during those decades. At least 2.6 million Afghans were already living abroad as registered refugees, with the largest numbers in neighboring Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. More than 3 million people had been internally displaced in Afghanistan by the end of 2020, and the UN refugee agency estimated that over 550,000 more Afghans were displaced within the country from the beginning of the year until August 10, including about 240,000 displaced since the withdrawal of coalition military forces began in May.

Over the years, most Afghans who have fled their country have been hosted by neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Others have made their way to Turkey, Germany, and India. At some points in the past, Afghans in Iran and Pakistan were recognized as prima facie refugees. But, due to inconsistent policy towards recognizing their status, most displaced Afghans in both countries today are not recognized as refugees.

As of July, Iran hosted 800,000 registered refugees and up to 3 million other displaced Afghans. Refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan have also faced abuses in Iran, including being prohibited from living in “no-go areas,” areas in most provinces off-limits to all non-citizens; being denied access to education; and being detained and deported without due process. Between 2019 and early 2021, Iran pushed almost 1.5 million Afghans back to Afghanistan, many involuntarily.

Pakistan has 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees and up to 2 million other displaced Afghans. For years, Afghans living in Pakistan have faced police abuse and forced returns.

Although jurisdictions vary in interpreting their obligations, Human Rights Watch considers the principle of nonrefoulement to extend to other serious risks to life and physical integrity arising from violence and exceptional situations. Countries receiving Afghans should adopt procedures to prevent the separation of children from their families, and to facilitate tracing and family reunification.

  1. Which governments have pledged to resettle Afghans as refugees?

A number of governments have agreed to resettle refugees from Afghanistan:

  • Canada has pledged to resettle up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, including women leaders, LGBTI people, journalists and people who assisted Canadian journalists, and human rights advocates who are already outside the country and who do not have a durable solution in a third country.
  • The United Kingdom announced that it would accept 5,000 vulnerable Afghans in the first year, with a maximum of 20,000 in “the long-term” and that it intends to prioritize resettlement of “women, girls, children, and those likely to face human rights abuses by Taliban.”
  • The Australian government has allocated 3,000 slots within the existing annual intake of 13,750 refugees.
  • Mexico has committed to resettle over 100 journalists and the members of a female winning robotics team.
  • Costa Rica announced that it would welcome women and girls from Afghanistan, and that a group of women affiliated with the United Nations Population Fund had already landed in the country.
  • The US has yet to announce a specific resettlement pledge for Afghan refugees, but it has offered some Afghans who worked with US-based media or nonprofit organizations, or programs funded and supported by the US government with Priority 2 (P-2) processing for their refugee applications. The annual cap set by the US government for refugees from around the world in the fiscal year 2021, which ends on September 30, is 62,500. As of July 31, only 494 Afghans had been admitted in this year’s program.

Thus far, while small numbers of Afghan refugees have been granted access to European Union countries, for example, Ireland announced that it has allocated 150 Afghans a place in its refugee protection program, the EU has not made any commitments to resettle Afghan refugees. Instead, the European Council stated on August 31 that they want to cooperate with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries already hosting large numbers of refugees “to prevent illegal migration from the region, reinforce border management capacity and prevent smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings.” The council further said that “third-country national clauses in the readmission agreements between the EU and certain transit countries should be used where the legal requirements are met,” which seems to suggest that EU member countries should return Afghan asylum seekers to the third countries through which they transited.

UNHCR has said that “bilateral evacuation programs should not, however, overshadow or substitute for an urgent, and wider international humanitarian response.” The UN refugee agency should take the lead on coordinating and encouraging pledges to accept more refugees. Most Afghan asylum seekers will remain in neighboring countries and Turkey, but more affluent Western governments that fail to welcome Afghans as refugees risk eroding the willingness of frontline countries to do so. Donor countries should commit to fund services and support for Afghans in countries neighboring Afghanistan and in Turkey, to help share the responsibility.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the European Commission plans to allocate €600 million to Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to help cover expenses generated by an influx of Afghans, and €300 million in humanitarian assistance in the country, largely earmarked for women and girls and other vulnerable groups. However, this greatly needed assistance should not serve as a justification for refusing to accept Afghan refugees within Europe’s own borders.

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