The United Nations refugee agency has called for a prohibition on the forced return of Afghan nationals, as thousands scramble to flee the country following the Taliban’s takeover.
“States have a legal and moral responsibility to allow those fleeing Afghanistan to seek safety, and to not forcibly return refugees,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said Tuesday in Geneva.
The U.N. wants asylum-seekers, who have previously had their claims rejected, to also be protected from a forcible return to dangerous situations – also known as non-refoulement.
“UNHCR remains concerned about the risk of human rights violations against civilians in this evolving context, including women and girls, those perceived to have a current or past association with the Afghan government, international organizations or with the international military forces,” Mantoo said.
Since the beginning of the year, the UNHCR says more than 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced as a result of conflict and insecurity.
The United States, Britain and other nations have been working around the clock this week to help get at-risk Afghans out of the country to safety.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Before the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, 18 million people – about half the population – were already in need of humanitarian assistance.
The U.N. children’s agency – UNICEF – is warning that without urgent action four million children under the age of five will be malnourished by the end of this year -- a million of them severely.
“UNICEF is calling for immediate and unhindered access to the hard-to-reach areas, so we can deliver much-needed support to the Afghan population, especially those paying the heaviest price – women and children,” said UNICEF’s Chief of Field Operations and Emergency Mustapha Ben Messaoud.
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places to be a child. A new U.N. report says the number of children killed and maimed in the first half of this year was the highest ever recorded by the organization in the country. Since January, more than 550 children have been killed and 1,400 injured.
The United Nations is appealing for $1.3 billion this year for Afghanistan, but has received less 40%, leaving an $800 million shortfall as needs grow.