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Afghans from northern provinces who fled their homes due to the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces take refuge in a public parc in Kabul, August 13, 2021.  ©2021 AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

(New York) – All governments should ensure that Afghans at risk of persecution have the opportunity to seek asylum, Human Rights Watch said in a question-and-answer document.

“What's Next for Afghans Fleeing the Taliban” analyzes the legal obligations and range of policy options available to governments responding to the flight of Afghans who fear returning to Afghanistan. Countries neighboring Afghanistan should allow Afghan asylum seekers to enter. Donor countries should offer resettlement for refugees and other safe and legal pathways for entry, as well as support for countries of first arrival and transit to meet refugees’ humanitarian needs.

“Afghans seeking asylum need temporary safe refuge while their future permanent status is being sorted out,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at Human Rights Watch. “All Afghans need access to fair processes for determining their status and protection needs.”

Governments have adopted a range of responses to address flight from Afghanistan. Iran and Pakistan, which were already hosting millions of displaced Afghans, have allowed some Afghans to cross into their territory. Canada and the United Kingdom have each pledged to resettle up to 20,000 Afghan refugees. Mexico has committed to resettle over 100 journalists and the award-winning women robotics team.

While the US has yet to announce a specific resettlement pledge for Afghan refugees, it has offered refugee processing to certain Afghans, such those who worked for US funded programs. European Union countries have granted access to small numbers of Afghans fleeing the Taliban, especially those with connections to European programs, but the EU has not made any commitments to resettle Afghan refugees.

The Taliban should allow Afghan citizens as well as foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban’s current policy requiring foreign travel authorization violates international human rights law, which provides that everyone has the right to leave their own country.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should take the lead in urging governments to boost their pledges to resettle Afghan refugees. The EU, US, and other governments have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to Afghans in need by extending residency status and work authorization to Afghan citizens already on their territory. Outside of refugee resettlement, governments should admit Afghans through expanded and facilitated family reunification, humanitarian visas, and visa waivers, while also providing generous financial and other support to the countries in the region who host most Afghan refugees.

“Donor countries that fail to welcome Afghans as refugees risk eroding the willingness of neighboring countries to host them,” Frelick said. “The US, EU, and others should commit to fund services and support for Afghans in countries near Afghanistan to help share the responsibility.”

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