US asks Pakistan to keep borders open for Afghans
ISLAMABAD: The United States State Department had said Pakistan should keep its borders with Afghanistan open for refugees, Pakistani media reported on Thursday, amid statements by various Pakistani leaders that the country did not have the capacity to host more Afghans.
The deteriorating security in Afghanistan has raised fears of a new refugee crisis, with neighboring Pakistan already ruling out taking any more.
Several million Afghans have been displaced within their country over years of war, 270,000 of them in fighting since January as US-led foreign forces have been withdrawing, according to the UN refugee agency.
Decades of war have driven Afghans out of their country, most into Pakistan to the east and Iran to the west.
Pakistan is home to 1.4 million Afghan refugees while Iran hosts nearly a million, according to UN refugee agency data from the beginning of the year. The number of undocumented Afghans in both countries is estimated to be much higher.
“In a place like Pakistan, it’ll be important that their borders remain open [to refugees]” a senior State Department official was quoted by the Dawn newspaper as saying while he was briefing journalists on a new US refugee admission program for Afghan nationals.
In a press briefing on August 4, State Department spokesperson Ned Price also it was “important” for countries to keep their borders open to potential refugee flows.
“We did not intend to signal out – to single out any particular country as a destination for refugees,” he added.
During a visit to Washington this week, Pakistan National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf said at a briefing that arrangements should be made to keep displaced Afghans inside their country instead of pushing them into Pakistan:
“Why make them dar-ba-dar (homeless)? Make arrangements for them inside their country. Pakistan does not have the capacity to take more refugees.”
The Turkish government has also criticized the US plan to use third countries to resettle Afghans, saying the move would cause a “great migration crisis” in the region.
“We do not accept the irresponsible decision taken by the United States without consulting our country,” the Turkish Ministry Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued in Ankara. “If the United States wants to take these people to its country, it is possible to transfer them directly to their country by planes.”
On Monday, the US announced a new refugee program, saying thousands more Afghans who may be targets of Taliban violence due to their US affiliations would have the opportunity to resettle as refugees in the United States.
The “Priority Two” refugee program will cover Afghans who worked for US-funded projects and for US-based non-government bodies and media outlets.