The UN refugee agency has called for a stop to deportations to Afghanistan. It has also asked neighboring countries to keep their borders open and to welcome new Afghan refugees.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called on countries worldwide to stop deporting people to Afghanistan, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected, following the takeover of the country by the Taliban.
In a statement published on Tuesday, the agency said that "states have a legal and moral responsibility to allow those fleeing Afghanistan to seek safety, and to not forcibly return refugees."
Fear of the Taliban
UNHCR said it is concerned about the risk of human rights violations against civilians, including women and girls and Afghans perceived to have a current or past association with the Afghan government, international organizations or international military forces.
"In the wake of the rapid deterioration in the security and human rights situation in large parts of the country and the humanitarian emergency underway, UNHCR calls on all countries to stop forced repatriations of Afghan nationals determined not to be in need of international protection," said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo in Geneva.
UNHCR also asked neighboring countries to keep their borders with Afghanistan open to allow civilians to flee. "States have a legal and moral responsibility to allow those fleeing Afghanistan to seek safety, and to not forcibly return refugees," said Mantoo, adding that "although thus far civilians have fled only sporadically and in a smaller number to countries close to Afghanistan, the situation continues to evolve rapidly."
Over 550,000 Afghans displaced in 2021
Since the start of the year, over 550,000 Afghans have been newly displaced, according to UNHCR.
Before the Taliban took control of the country, there were already six million displaced Afghans: Roughly 2.5 million Afghans living in other countries as refugees, and an estimated 3.5 million Afghans who were internally displaced -- meaning that they had to flee their homes, but did not leave the country.
Now, the number of refugees and internally displaced people is expected to rise dramatically over the next few weeks and months.