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Afghanistan signs refugee Convention

Briefing notes

Afghanistan signs refugee Convention

2 September 2005

We are pleased to announce that Afghanistan has acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The decision is especially significant for a country that for decades was the origin of one of the largest populations of refugees and asylum seekers in the world.

The accession, which takes effect this week, comes after several months of close collaboration between UNHCR and Afghan authorities on the issue. With it, Afghanistan becomes the 146th country to ratify either the 1951 Convention or its 1967 Protocol. The last previous ratification was in November 2003, when St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Protocol.

Both Iran - which has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the years - and Afghanistan have now signed the Convention. UNHCR hopes that Pakistan, which has also generously hosted millions of Afghans, will soon join as well.

Afghanistan's accession enshrines in international law the country's long-standing tradition of asylum. Even throughout its troubled recent history, Afghanistan kept its doors open to refugees - notably those from Central Asia like the tens of thousands of Tajiks who fled their country's civil war in the early 1990s.

Since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, more than 3.5 million Afghans have repatriated from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan in one of the largest refugee repatriation operations in UNHCR's 54-year history.