Refugee crisis

Editorial Board
Monday, Jun 17, 2024

In the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, over 1.6 million Afghans are thought to have fled the country. Now, almost three years later, Afghans continue to make up the largest population of refugees worldwide, with over 6.4 million Afghans hosted across 108 countries over the past year and accounting for one-sixth of all refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate. This marks an increase of 13 per cent or 741,400 refugees as compared to the previous year. The majority of Afghan refugees also continue to seek refuge in Iran and Pakistan, which are both among the top five refugee hosting countries in the world accounting for an estimated 3.8 million and 2.0 million refugees respectively.

The situation underscores the continuing struggles in Afghanistan after the return of the Afghan Taliban to power and the increasing burden on refugee-hosting countries, the majority of which are developing countries like Pakistan. The unfairness of the situation is exacerbated by the fact that those most responsible for the mass displacement of Afghans, principally the US and other Western countries, are not bearing much of the burden when it comes to dealing with the displacement that their invasions and occupations have helped create.

The sustainable return of many of the Afghan refugees now residing in countries like Iran and Pakistan remains dubious, given that almost half of Afghanistan’s population is currently dealing with food insecurity and millions still displaced within the country itself. Aside from the countries responsible for the Afghan debacle stepping up to help address the trail of destruction that they have left behind, one also cannot ignore the realities in play in Afghanistan at the moment. With a precarious internal economic situation and terror outfits seemingly able to easily find sanctuary within Afghanistan’s borders, the Afghan Taliban need to prioritize better relations with their neighbours which will help create a more stable climate in the country. This can serve as a platform through which other issues such as the economy and internal displacement can be addressed. And while the concerns and frustrations of large refugee hosting countries like Pakistan are understandable and even, in many cases, justified, it is important to emphasize that demonizing and forcibly repatriating refugees without a stable situation in Afghanistan are not the way to resolve an admittedly tough situation for all. In this, the first step has to be taken by the Afghan Taliban in helping Pakistan deal with the menace of terror posed by the TTP.