UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expressed its concerns on the rapid escalation of conflict in Afghanistan this week. Amid intensified clashes in Nimruz province in the country’s south-west, nearly 200 Afghan refugees have been forced to flee to the Islamic Republic of Iran over the weekend.
In a press release, the Agency said that many more Afghan civilians may find themselves trapped if they are unable to escape from the highly volatile situation. It is estimated that since the beginning of the year nearly 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced within the country – some 244,000 since May alone.
UNHCR urges the Iranian authorities to keep the Milak border crossing open in light of the intensifying humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Not doing so may put thousands of lives at risk.
In cooperation with Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA), UNHCR has already provided immediate assistance to new arrivals, including food and water. UNHCR and partners have today joined an inter-agency mission led by the government to border areas and potential refugee sites, to further assess the humanitarian needs on the ground and scale up the response.
Together with other humanitarian actors, UNHCR is prepared to provide urgent assistance and support reception arrangements – including emergency shelter, latrines and other core relief items. Hygiene packs, including soap and face masks, will also be distributed to help families arriving to stay safe in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With almost one million Afghan refugee cardholders already in country, the Government of Iran has consistently welcomed Afghans fleeing protracted conflict and violence for over 40 years, including through exemplary inclusion of Afghans in national health and education systems. UNHCR appeals to the government to continue this tradition of hospitality and lifesaving protection.
No large-scale displacement across borders from Afghanistan has been observed this year. Any major influx would clearly require the international community to step up immediate and sustained support to both Afghanistan and its neighbours, in a spirit of responsibility- and burden-sharing.