Previously published at Common Dreams
As a coalition of human rights groups on Monday implored the international community to do more to help Afghan refugees, new reporting revealed that the United States is rejecting the overwhelming majority of Afghans seeking to enter the country under a humanitarian program—including relatives of those who aided the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country.
“Today, over six million Afghans have been driven out of their homes and their country by conflict,” the Alliance for Human Rights noted in its World Refugee Day statement. “These numbers have been exacerbated by the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan in August 2021 and the critical humanitarian crisis Afghanistan is facing today.”
While the U.S. has resettled more than 70,000 Afghans, many of whom aided its war effort against the Taliban, CBS News reports that more than 90% of the fully adjudicated applications for entry under the humanitarian parole mechanism have been denied. Among these are translators and their families, who face grave dangers for collaborating with the foreign invaders who fought the Taliban for two decades.
“This is totally unacceptable,” tweeted Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council.
Mohammad, the Afghan brother of one translator for U.S. forces said he felt “like a dead person but breathing” after his parole application was denied.
“We don’t feel safe,” he told CBS News. “We don’t know what will happen in an hour. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”
Mohammad’s brother is even blunter: “My family is in extreme danger,” he said.
The Alliance for Human Rights statement highlighted that “the situation has been particularly devastating for women and children, who account for 80% of newly displaced Afghans, as they face increased protection risks such as family separation, psychosocial stress and trauma, exploitation, and gender-based violence.”
The coalition’s statement continued:
Refugee rights are fundamental human rights. The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol protect the rights of refugees. This includes the right not to be expelled except under certain strictly defined conditions; the right not to be punished for illegal entry into a state; the rights to work, housing, education, public relief assistance, freedom of religion, access to the court system, freedom of movement within the territory, and receiving identity and travel documents.
Regrettably, many Afghan refugees, including in Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, and Turkey do not enjoy their rights under international law. They continue to face brutality, violence, ill-treatment and pushbacks. They face discrimination and struggle to access basic services, education, work, identity, and travel documents. In the worst cases, they face arbitrary detentions, penalties and forced deportation.
“We are appalled by the increasing number of incidents of violence and serious human rights violations against Afghan refugees,” the alliance added. “In the face of such egregious abuses, many governments are ignoring the great suffering of individuals in need of international protection, particularly women and children.”
The groups call on nations to:
- Ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol;
- Take all necessary measures to ensure the safe passage out of Afghanistan for all those targeted by the Taliban and other parties;
- Immediately end the forcible return of Afghan refugees;
- Allow all Afghan asylum-seekers to access a clear, transparent, and functioning asylum system, lodge a claim for international protection, and apply for resettlement; and
- Provide individuals at particular risk including human rights defenders, journalists, women leaders and activists, and LGBTQ+ persons, immediate practical support at all levels.
Neighboring nations have borne the bulk of the refugee flow from Afghanistan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), there are more than three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, while the Iranian government says the figure is over four million in the Islamic Republic.
Meanwhile, Afghan refugees are being deported from or rejected by numerous nations.
Turkey has deported thousands of Afghans despite international outcry over the dire humanitarian situation in their homeland.
In Germany, Afghan refugees have recently been evicted from government housing to make room for Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country.
In Britain, thousands of Afghan refugees remain stuck in hotels, with advocates blaming Home Office “red tape” and “disorganization” for rehoming delays. Meanwhile, Afghans are among the more than 100 migrants whose planned deportation from Britain to Rwanda—which was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights last week—sparked protests in London.
“It’s tragic because all these people put their lives at risk working for the Brits and Americans in Afghanistan,” Krystyna Deuss of London told ITV, “and it’s just so awful that they’ve just been forgotten.”