The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a non-return advisory for Afghanistan on Monday, calling for “a bar on forced returns of Afghan nationals, including asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected.”
At a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo called on States to halt forcible returns of Afghan nationals who were previously considered in no need of international protection.
“States have a legal and moral responsibility to allow those fleeing Afghanistan to seek safety, and to not forcibly return refugees,” said Mantoo.
During the briefing, Mantoo expressed concern for women and girls, as well as those perceived to have a current or past association with the Afghan government, international organizations or with international military forces.
According to UNHCR data:
- Some 80% of nearly a quarter of a million Afghans forced to flee since the end of May 2021 are women and children.
- The UNHCR reports that more than 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced, since the beginning of 2021.
- Meanwhile, a total of 72,375 Afghan refugees are hosted within Afghanistan, and an overwhelming majority of 2,215,445 refugees are reported to be in Iran and Pakistan.
Afghans have seen more than four decades of displacement, constituting one of the largest protracted refugee situations in the world, with and one of the biggest displacement crises in modern history, according to the UNHCR.
Caroline Van Buren, UNHCR's representative in Afghanistan told CNN’s Robyn Curnow on Sunday that between 20,000 and 30,000 people were leaving the country on a weekly basis.
"We are now seeing a large number of people leaving Afghanistan: flights are full and these people, of course, are people who have travel documents, we are able to get visas, who have residency permits in other countries," she said.
"But now we're also seeing a trend of people who are moving in an irregular way, people who are fleeing for their own safety without travel documents and they are much at risk for exploitation," she continued.