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Hazara family of refugees in Greece. Photo: Karol Grygoruk

The whole world must act now to avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

16 August 2021

This is a refugee family from Afghanistan whom Minority Rights Group (MRG) met last year close to the Greek-Macedonian border.

We will hold their names for their safety. They belong to the Shi’a Hazara community, a long-persecuted religious and ethnic minority that over the past years has faced repeated indiscriminate attacks by the Taliban. Because of their fear for their future, the parents concluded that they had no choice but to flee their country. They are some of the almost 2,5 million registered Afghan refugees around the world – a number that will surely rise considerably in the next weeks, given the recent days’ events.

Now under threat from the new regime in Kabul are members of religious and ethnic minority groups, LGBTQI+ individuals, academics, journalists, writers, civil society activists, human rights defenders, Afghans who have worked for other countries’ embassies and aid agencies, women’s rights defenders, and women and girls more generally.

In light of the last days’ events and responding to the collapse of the Afghan government following the seizure of power by the Taliban, MRG expresses our deepest concern for those discriminated groups that for so many years were already at risk and now face a heightened danger of persecution. We also express our fears for all those Afghans who have contributed to the vibrant civil society that has emerged inside Afghanistan over the past two decades.

Afghans must have the right to leave the country and seek and gain protection elsewhere. There is also an urgent need to ensure special protection for those already outside of Afghanistan. Foreign governments should prioritize providing visas and helping ensure safe passage for civilians whom the Taliban may target for abuse because of their past work or status, along with their family members.

We call upon the international community, through the relevant UN agencies, to address the immediate humanitarian crisis. The UN and its member states must urgently ensure that adequate humanitarian assistance is provided to internally displaced Afghans, as well as to the neighbouring countries to which Afghan refugees are fleeing.

Afghan refugees should be treated with care and dignity. Any moves to return rejected asylum-seekers must immediately be halted, especially those belonging to minority communities and other vulnerable groups. Governments should directly suspend all deportations and forced returns to Afghanistan, not only in upcoming days but also in the next months. As of last week, the suspension of returns had been confirmed by France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

More than 570,000 Afghan refugees have sought asylum in the European Union since 2015, making them the second-largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians. New asylum applications by Afghans have risen in the recent months and will be rising right now.

Finally, MRG welcomes the recent announcement by the Canadian government that it intends to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, including Sikhs and Hindus. We urge other governments to take similar action. We are witnessing a tragedy of human rights, and without swift action by the international community, the consequences of the change in government in Afghanistan will only be compounded further.

Photo credit: Karol Grygoruk.