UN calls on Pakistan,
other countries to accept
Afghan asylum-seekers

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GENEVA: Afghans seeking to flee abroad face escalating risks as the domestic situation deteriorates, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday in a plea to neighboring countries to open their borders even to those without documentation.

Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan have deported increasing numbers of Afghans since August, following the Taliban takeover, it said.

The UNHCR called for a halt to deportations saying Afghans may face persecution in their homeland where religious and ethnic minorities and activists have been targeted.

“UNHCR urges all countries receiving Afghan new arrivals to keep their borders open to those in need of international protection,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.

Pakistan’s foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood said on Wednesday the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) should play a role in helping the people of Afghanistan who were facing a serious humanitarian crisis.

Afghanistan witnessed a major political change in August when the Taliban seized control of its capital city, Kabul, while the international community was still in the process of pulling out its troops.

The political change exposed the economic vulnerabilities of the country, however, which required substantial foreign assistance after being in a state of war for several decades.

The top official of Pakistan’s foreign office briefed the Islamabad-based heads of OIC missions on the prevailing situation in Afghanistan ahead of the group’s proposed extraordinary session on the subject later this month.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood, center, briefs the OIC heads of mission in Islamabad, Pakistan, on December 1, 2021.
(Photo courtesy: Pakistan foreign office)

“The Foreign Secretary emphasized that as the collective voice of the Islamic Ummah, the OIC, can and must play its part in helping address the urgent humanitarian and economic needs of our Afghan brethren,” said an official statement released by the foreign office in Islamabad. “In addition, he underlined, OIC’s leadership could help galvanize other international actors to come forward and extend a helping hand to the Afghan people currently in dire need of international support and solidarity.”

The Pakistani official informed that the OIC extraordinary session was organized after Saudi Arabia took the initiative last month, adding that the administration in Islamabad welcomed the decision and offered to host the foreign ministers of OIC nations on December 17.

Quoting the United Nations estimates, he said that 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million people faced “crisis level of hunger,” adding there was a risk of acute malnutrition among Afghan women and children along with the problem of internal displacement.

Afghan national coming to Pakistan for asylum and shelter

The foreign secretary maintained a potential economic collapse in Afghanistan could not be ruled out.

“This would not only be a humanitarian tragedy but also exacerbate the security situation, spur instability, and lead to a mass exodus of refugees,” he said, adding: “This would have grave consequences for international peace and stability.”

Pakistan has also urged the international community in the past not to adopt a policy of disengagement toward Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover since it would have negative consequences for the people in the war-battered country along with the rest of the region.