Thousands of Afghans seeking refuge in countries of the region: UNHCR | Refugees News

According to the United Nations refugee agency, at least 35,400 Afghan refugees have arrived in Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan since January 1.

Tens of thousands of Afghans in neighboring countries are believed to be in need of international refugee protection, having sought refuge there after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last month, according to the United Nations agency for refugees. the refugees.

Between January 1 and July 22, 2021 – just before the overthrow of the Afghan government by the Taliban – nearly 4,000 Afghans have become new refugees in Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan, according to data released by the Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations for Refugees. .

That number rose to 35,400 on September 22, nearly nine times the number, the United Nations agency said in its latest report on Wednesday.

“The majority of new Afghan arrivals approaching UNHCR in Pakistan and Iran are largely undocumented and a large majority of new Afghan arrivals interviewed by UNHCR say they left Afghanistan for security reasons,” the latest report says. of the agency on the situation in Afghanistan.

Afghans gather to receive food distributed by a charity based in Islamabad, on the outskirts of Chaman, a border town in Pakistan’s Balochistan province [AP Photo]

At least 19,300 new Afghan refugees have entered Iran this year, 10,800 in Pakistan and 5,300 in Tajikistan, the data shows, adding that the actual numbers may be higher.

UNHCR has warned regional governments in recent days of the possibility of a humanitarian crisis causing a massive movement of refugees from Afghanistan if the country is not stabilized.

So far, however, UNHCR says border movements of Afghans seeking refuge in countries in the region have been limited.

Last week, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi visited Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan to survey the situation and meet with Pakistani officials regarding the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s support for ongoing aid operations.

Grandi called on world powers to engage with the Taliban government in order to facilitate the functioning of basic public services, or face the possibility of an “implosion” of governance.

“It is important that the international community finds the necessary direction, the necessary means to make Afghanistan work,” he said.

“Because of an implosion of Afghanistan, the collapse of public services for example, like health or education, if the state stops functioning, then it will cause a crisis much bigger than humanitarian.

Afghan refugees in India’s capital New Delhi demonstrate outside UNHCR office [File: Manish Swarup/AP]

The latest UNHCR report says that although there has been an increase in the movement of Afghans to Iran, mostly through irregular land routes, the movement of potential refugees to Pakistan has “not been seen as superior. at normal levels ”of movement at this boundary.

Afghanistan also continues to grapple with massive movements of internally displaced persons (IDPs), with more than 3.5 million people having fled their homes to other parts of the country.

Of these, more than 340,000 have fled in the past two months, coinciding with an intensification of the Taliban’s campaign against the Afghan government and their takeover of the country’s capital on August 15.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

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