Afghanistan situation needs urgent prioritized protection considerations – UNHCR Multi-Country Representation in Canberra

With the dramatic developments in Afghanistan over the past several days the alarming circumstances in which many nationals of that country now find themselves are of deep concern to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 
 
On 13 August, in a global statement, we reported increased internal displacement and our worries for the situation of women and girls. We also appealed to countries worldwide to do all they can to ensure that Afghans outside their country are able to seek safety, regardless of their current legal status.  
 
With the situation in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan having worsened since then UNHCR’s offices in many countries, including its Multi-Country Office here in Canberra, have been receiving numerous calls from alarmed individuals with friends or family trapped in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.  
 
From this, several near-term needs relevant to the situations here in Australia and New Zealand are becoming clear.  
 
Firstly, and given the anxiety felt by many Afghan refugees in Australia and New Zealand, there is need to address worries over their status and especially to explore solutions that can help with family reunification. With regard to Australia’s announcement on Tuesday that no visaed Afghan here would be sent back at this stage, this is welcome. But more certainty, security and long-term stability is needed.  
 
“Look at the scenes on the runway at Kabul airport,” said Adrian Edwards, UNHCR’s Regional Representative in Canberra. “No one chooses to become a refugee, they become a refugee when all else is lost and lives are on the line. Now is the moment to recognize the deep anxiety among those Afghans here with international protection needs, many fearing for their loved ones, and who feel they have more uncertainty over their future than ever.” 
 
Second, over the coming days with the planning for evacuation flights out of Kabul, it will be important that everything possible is done to make use of all seats available to maximize this window of opportunity to protect lives. We do not underestimate the complexity of doing so given current circumstances in Kabul. Nonetheless, we urge that there be a generous approach towards all at-risk individuals, for whom evacuation has potential to be truly life-saving.

However, the wider international response to Afghanistan’s tragic crisis cannot only be about evacuating a few of those at risk. As UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has noted, millions face an uncertain future, especially women. As we move forward, states and UNHCR will need to work together to respond to those displaced outside Afghanistan, including through stepped-up humanitarian entry. We will be ready to support Australia and New Zealand in these efforts. 
 
Additional Information

See UNHCR’s global non-returns advisory on Afghanistan.

See UNHCR’s global briefing note on Afghanistan of 13 August.

Follow UNHCR Canberra on Twitter @UNHCRCanberra

For UNHCR Multi-Country Office in Canberra media inquiries please contact Jade Herron, [email protected], +61 424 545 569. 

To donate to UNHCR’s Afghan Emergency Appeal go to www.unrefugees.org.au or call 1300 361 287.