Where Are All the Afghan Refugees Going?
The War in Afghanistan is over, to the great shock and sorrow of many. The U.S. troops have pulled out, the Afghan president is nowhere to be found, and the civilians? Well, as in every war, it’s always the innocents and the civilians who will suffer the most. In the first hours of the Fall of Kabul, Afghan civilians were so desperate to flee the Taliban's rule that they rallied to the airport, climbed atop planes, and a few even died falling from aircrafts mid-flight.
The Taliban has allowed rescue operations to continue, giving way for countries like the U.S. to evacuate its diplomats and citizens, and sometimes, civilians if they have the right paperwork. It’s a giant mess, and it leaves many wondering just what will happen to the Afghans seeking refugee status—and what countries will even accept them. Even though the U.S. started the war that has displaced thousands, it has accepted the least number of refugees from among its allies.
The War in Afghanistan lasted almost 20 years, creating as many as 2.6 million Afghan refugees by the end of 2020. Most of the refugees who fled the fighting in the provinces have not entered or completed their asylum processes. The number does't even include the 2.9 million Afghans who have been internally displaced by the war.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the country that has taken in the most number of refugees is Pakistan with roughly 1.4 million Afghans seeking asylum. Iran comes next with 780,000 Afghan civilians. Neither countries are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but as Afghanistan’s neighbors, they’ve borne the brunt of the refugee population.
Meanwhile, the NATO forces involved in the war have taken in roughly 300,000 refugees, with Germany being the most open country for Afghan civilians, followed by Austria, France, and Sweden. Australia, the U.K., India, and the U.S. have taken in the least amount of refugees.
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Prior to the Fall of Kabul, some NATO countries had filed motions to stop the acceptance of Afghan refugees. Some have even taken a strong stand against refugees altogether. Austria has stated that it plans to move against the influx of refugees, favoring deportation centers instead. Meanwhile, Turkey has ramped up the construction of its border wall, which separates it from Iran, as politicians seek to stop the influx of refugees.
But it’s not all bad news. Countries like the U.K. and Canada have both committed to welcoming 20,000 Afghan refugees each, prioritizing women, girls, LGBTQ Afghans, and religious minorities. The Philippines has also spoken out about accepting Afghan refugees.
Twenty years ago when the war began, the life of Afghan civilians was changed forever. And now, 20 years later, their lives will forever be changed again, miles away from the land they once called home.