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Where are Afghan refugees going?

Tens of thousands of Afghans are trying to flee their country after the Taliban takeover and countries near and far are preparing to take them in.

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Where are Afghan refugees going?
Capt. Chris herbert AFP

The world is fearing a new migrant crisis as people flee the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite the current evacuation from Kabul airport, many are not expected to have the necessary documentation to escape. The UNHCR estimates that more than 400,000 Afghans have fled their homes this year alone. While many will be going to neighboring countries, such as Iran and Pakistan, other countries have said they will be taking in Afghan refugees to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

More than 2,200 diplomats and civilians have been evacuated from Afghanistan on military flights, a Western security official said on Wednesday

Why are countries doing this?

Many western nations that have invited refugees believe they have "special responsibilities" to Afghans. Back in 2001, it was NATO that invaded in the first place, and the continuing war and displacement was largely instigated by the alliance.

There are fears that the Taliban will enact a revenge on those Afghans who worked with the US and NATO in the 20-year conflict, as well as on ethnic and religious minorities. In their press conference yesterday, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed he wanted to, "Reassure all our countrymen, whoever has worked in the military, in translation, we have given amnesty to everybody, there is no revenge,"

He continued, "All those young people who have talent and who have got education, we want them to be here and work for Afghanistan, for their own country. No-one will go after them, no one will ask them why they worked with the Americans."

"There is no danger for them."

However, there has already been reports of house-to-house searches for political enemies in cities under Taliban control. People have been telling news and radio that they have been hiding in their homes for days, fearing of retribution. Politicians have warned to judge the Taliban on their actions, not their words.

Which countries have said they will take in refugees?

President Biden has sent aside $500 million to help evacuate those Afghans which worked with the US.

Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia have said they will hold Afghan refugees bound for the US temporarily while it is worked out how best to get them to America. Uganda has said it will host 2,000 under the same plan.

Vjosa Osmani, Kosovo’s president, said she was contacted by President Joe Biden last month with a request to temporarily house Afghan refugees.

“Without any hesitation or single conditioning, I have given my consent to such humanitarian operation,” she said in a Facebook post, adding: “Nobody better than us knows what it means to be expelled and to leave by force from where you grew up, to separate from your loved ones, to be forced to flee to save your life.”

The United Kingdom announced they will accept 20,000 refugees, as will Canada. The UK said their scheme will be aimed at "the most vulnerable," namely women and children. The British parliament was recalled from its summer recess early to debate the UK's role in the collapse of the country and what it can do next. Other countries in Europe are saying they will take refugees, but French President Emmanuel Macron has been heavily criticized for vowing to create an EU initiative to prevent migrant flows from Afghanistan.

As well as these plans, a more pressing problem could be the influx of Afghanistan's direct neighbors. Iran already hosts 3 million Afghans, as that number is expected to jump as people flee through the long and porous border. Pakistan has 1.4 million Afghan refugees, with the UN estimating the number could be as many as 3 million, making it one of the largest refugee populations in the world. While the west deliberates, those countries closest to Afghanistan will have their support stretched the most.

Is it enough?

The UK press has already attacked the government for its lack of ambition in housing its proposed refugees. While 20,000 Afghans may sound a lot, it isn't many for a country of over 30 million people. Add in how it will be parceled over 4 years, making it only 5,000 refugees a year, and it is desperately little.

It will also be difficult for people to get the necessary documentation to leave. As many Afghans fled their homes in the chaos of the last three days, many do not have the necessary documentation to gain visas and leave with the Americans and NATO.