Explained: Which countries are taking in Afghan refugees?

Here’s a look at the policies of different nations on taking Afghan refugees.

The Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15 prompted hundreds of Afghans to rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in a bid to flee the Islamic militant organisation’s impending rule. Several visuals showed a sea of people running on the airport tarmac, with some people desperate enough to tie themselves to the wheels of an aircraft that was leaving Kabul.

This situation has cast a shadow of uncertainty on the future of Afghan nationals and some nations have announced their policy on taking Afghan refugees. Here’s a look at what some of these policies are.

Refugees around the world

As of 2020, there are about 2.8 million Afghan refugees abroad. The highest number of refugees living abroad belong to Syria, at 6.8 million, according to UNHCR.

A refugee is defined as a person who has been forced “to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries,” as per UNHCR.

A total of 68 percent of people displaced across borders belong to five countries — Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

Overall, at the end of 2020, 82.4 million people were displaced worldwide because of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. In terms of intake, Turkey hosts the most number of refugees (mostly from Syria) at over 4 million.

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Which countries will take Afghan refugees?

US: On August 2, the US Department of State announced the Priority 2 (P-2) designation which grants US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) access to certain Afghan nationals and their eligible family members.

“The U.S. objective remains a peaceful, secure Afghanistan. However, in light of increased levels of Taliban violence, the U.S. government is working to provide certain Afghans, including those who worked with the United States, the opportunity for refugee resettlement to the United States,” the Department of State said in a statement.

As per reports, the US is expected to take in over 10,000 Afghan nationals, which will mostly include the people who helped the government.

UK: On August 18, the UK government announced that those who have been forced to flee their home or face threats of persecution from the Taliban will be offered a route to set up home in the UK permanently. The government will resettle 5,000 Afghan nationals who are at risk due to the current crisis during the first year of the resettlement scheme, which will give priority to women, girls and religious minorities. Overall, the UK aims to resettle 20,000 Afghan nationals through this scheme.

Canada: Canada has also promised to take 20,000 Afghan nationals.

Europe: Most European nations are wary of taking in Afghan refugees fearing a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis, when the image of the body of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach near Bodrum, Turkey, became a symbol of the refugee crisis and the risk many refugees took in attempting to cross over to the West using water routes.

The UNHCR estimated that over 9 lakh refugees and migrants arrived on European shores in 2015, and roughly 3,500 of them lost their lives during the journey. About 75 per cent of the incoming people were fleeing conflict or persecution in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to Statista, Austria, France and Sweden are other major destinations for Afghan refugees in Europe. As per a European Union report, around 7,000 Afghans were granted permanent or temporary legal status in the EU in the first quarter of 2021. Out of these, at least 2,200 of them were located in Greece, 1,800 in France, 1,000 in Germany and around 700 in Italy.

“Overall, Afghan refugees had a 62 percent chance of gaining recognition in the EU, even though many are only granted the temporary right to remain,” Statista notes.

India: India does not have a separate statute for refugees, and until now has been dealing with refugees on a case-by-case basis.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. In 2011, the Union government circulated to all states and Union Territories a Standard Operating Procedure to deal with foreign nationals who claimed to be refugees.

Considering the present situation in Afghanistan, India has introduced a new category of e-visa for Afghan nationals to fast-track their applications for entry into the country. These visas will be valid for six months only and it is not clear what will happen after this period elapses.

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