Where will Afghanistan’s refugees end up?

Neighbouring states adopt divergent policies while Europe keen to protect itself from waves of illegal immigrants

 Refugees evacuated from Kabul Afghanistan wait to board a bus at Dulles International Airport that will take them to a refugee processing centre   in Dulles, Virginia, in the US.  Photograph:  Win McNamee/Getty Images

Refugees evacuated from Kabul Afghanistan wait to board a bus at Dulles International Airport that will take them to a refugee processing centre in Dulles, Virginia, in the US. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

The tens of thousands of Afghans evacuated from Kabul since the middle of August have been either sent temporarily to transit countries for processing by governments offering asylum or flown directly to host countries for settlement outside the turbulent region.

Afghanistan’s five neighbouring states have adopted divergent policies on the refugees. Pakistan, which is home to 3 million Afghans, has kept its crossings open but seeks to isolate refugees near the border.

Iran, which is home to 3.5 million Afghans, has set up emergency shelters for refugees but “once conditions improve” they will repatriated, interior minister official Hossein Ghassemi told the Iranian news agency.

Uzbekistan has allowed refugees to transit while Turkmenistan, which has already settled 800, is promoting itself as an attractive option for Afghans. Tajikistan has offered to shelter up to 100,000 refugees but if more arrive, Dushanbe would call on international agencies for aid.

Currently home to 120,000 Afghans as well as 3.5 million Syrians, Turkey is constructing a wall on its border with Iran to block an influx of Afghans making for Europe. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey refuses to be Europe’s “refugee warehouse”.

Uganda and Rwanda in Africa; North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo in Europe; and Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico in the Americas have offered to host specific numbers of refugees until they find asylum.

Fearing a repeat of 2015 when more than one million Syrian refugees arrived in Europe, the EU seeks to prevent uncontrolled mass migration.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will take 10,000, while French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to protect those who are in danger while contending that Europe has to protect itself from “significant waves of illegal migrants”.

Greek officials declared their country will not be a “gateway” to Europe for Afghans who, according to the UN refugee agency, have made up 45 per cent of arrivals on Greek islands this year.

Britain will settle Afghans who worked with British forces and diplomats and accept another 20,000 over several years. Canada will take 20,000 vulnerable Afghans as well as interpreters who worked with its forces. Australia will offer visas to 3,000.

The Irish Government is preparing a new humanitarian programme to admit up to 500 more Afghan refugees. The programme is likely to be directed at first at family members of Afghans already in Ireland and would initially grant Irish residence for a period of two years.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said after its operation ended that 123,000 US nationals, Afghans and others had been evacuated from Afghanistan by the US airlift, but Washington has not revealed the number of Afghans who will find refuge in America.

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