OSLO (Dispatches) -- The Norwegian Refugee Council has called for more funding and responsibility sharing, as 4,000 to 5,000 Afghans flee across the border to Iran daily.
“Thousands of exhausted women, children and men are crossing from Afghanistan into Iran every day in search of safety. Iran cannot be expected to host so many Afghans with so little support from the international community. There must be an immediate scale up of aid both inside Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries like Iran, before the deadly winter cold,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Secretary General Jan Egeland on a visit to Iran this week.
Between 4,000 and 5,000 Afghans are fleeing into Iran each day via informal border crossings, according to locally reported figures.
While a fraction of people have returned to Afghanistan, the numbers arriving continue to rise. This trend may increase as the Afghan winter arrives and harsh below zero temperatures hit.
“We’ve heard heartbreaking stories from families that have recently arrived in Iran. One refugee said they were targeted for being Shia Muslim, their few remaining possessions were taken, their house burned, and they had to flee multiple times within Afghanistan before reaching Iran. They were told that their daughters would be married off to fighters as soon as they reach the age of 10,” said Egeland.
The United Nations refugee agency’s appeal to support Afghans fleeing to neighboring countries calls for nearly 300 million U.S. dollars to help up to 515,000 people that may flee before the end of the year. The appeal is only 32 percent funded so far. About 136 million U.S. dollars of the total appeal funding is needed to support Afghans in Iran.
“We commend Iran for welcoming and hosting millions of displaced Afghans for the past four decades. But now the international community must step up to support Afghanistan’s neighbors and share the responsibility to help them to continue welcoming refugees. Afghans represent one of the world’s largest refugee caseloads. Now return conditions are set to become ever more elusive.”
NRC said while a large number of Afghan refugees is not moving towards Europe yet, all rich nations should both ramp up aid and keep their borders open to those fleeing conflict and persecution. European nations, including Poland, must stop deporting Afghan asylum seekers and review all failed applications in light of the crisis.
It is estimated that at least 300,000 Afghans
have entered Iran since the takeover of government by the Taliban. It may be expected that hundreds of thousands will continue to arrive over the winter.
Nearly 5 million Afghans remain displaced outside of the country. Of these, 90 perCent are hosted by the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan.
Some 3.6 million Afghans reside in Iran, although only 780,000 are officially registered.
Iran would be the second largest refugee hosting country in the world after Turkey, if all Afghans were registered.
Afghan children in Iran, regardless of the legal status of their parents, can enroll in public schools together with Iranian children. This is an example of one of the most inclusive refugee policies globally.