The Refugee Council response to the current refugee crisis in Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries

25 Sep 2001

Refugee Council statement

Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

"With an estimated 3-4 million refugees from Afghanistan already in neighbouring countries and hundreds of thousands more on the move, urgent action is required by the international community to respond to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

"The immediate priority should be to respond to the crisis in the region:

  • Neighbouring countries, notably Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan should open their borders to those fleeing from Afghanistan and provide protection to Afghan refugees. The crisis needs effective management under the coordination of UNHCR with proper registration of refugees and the separation.

  • The international community should respond urgently and generously to the UNHCR's appeal for funds. It estimates that at least six million people in Afghanistan are highly vulnerable. Neighbouring countries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will also need substantial financial aid to cope with the crisis.

  • Urgent action is also required to aid people who have been internally displaced within Afghanistan. These people are already suffering from prolonged drought and food shortages and who now face further imminent danger from the deteriorating situation, which will be exacerbated by the onset of winter and conflict. We are particularly concerned about the fate of those in the north and west of Afghanistan who are on the brink of starvation.

"EU states and other western countries such as Australia must not close their borders to the relatively small number of Afghan refugees who are already trying to find sanctuary with them. These refugees must be allowed full access to the asylum procedures.

"In addition, the international community needs to make contingency plans in case the evacuation of some refugees to countries outside the region becomes necessary. Such an evacuation might include individuals who are particularly vulnerable for health reasons and others who might not be safe in Pakistan. Any evacuation would need to be coordinated on an international basis under the auspices of UNHCR.

"The UK has traditionally responded generously to previous refugee crises - for instance in Kosovo - once people are made aware by politicians and the media of why the refugees have had to flee and the terrible conditions they have endured."

ENDS

Further Information

Read a joint NGO statement calling for restraint in the international response to the crisis

External sites
For daily updates on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, see the website of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, www.unhcr.ch

The Refugee Council is not responsible for the content of external sites.