Red Cross Ready for Possible Exodus of Afghan Refugees

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies raised $24 million to prepare for the potential displacement of tens of thousands of Afghans to neighboring countries in the coming months.

The refugee exodus, which was anticipated to occur after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in mid-August, has yet to happen. Despite the many cases of internally displaced persons, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports just over 30,000 people have fled across borders to seek international protection since January.

However, the International Federation of the Red Cross said it expected the number of refugees to soar due to deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees cross into Pakistan via the Chaman border (photo: doc).

Afghan refugees cross into Pakistan via the Chaman border (photo: doc).

Red Cross spokeswoman Nathalie Perroud told Mouab Afghanistan is in the grip of a complex array of emergencies. He said millions of people were suffering from severe droughts, food and water shortages, internal displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic and a crumbling economy. The main problem, according to Perroud, is access to banking services.

“We’ve got reports of people literally queuing for hours to just access their bank accounts. And the maximum amount they can withdraw is $200 per week. That means people are really running out of money, and their basic needs may not be met in the near future.”

The Red Cross reports 18 million people do not receive adequate basic services and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance to survive. The organization warned of the threat that Afghans face ahead of a harsh winter, which could lead to more misery and hardship.

Afghan war victims are being treated at a hospital run by the International Red Cross (ICRC) in Kabul.

Afghan war victims are being treated at a hospital run by the International Red Cross (ICRC) in Kabul.

Perroud said the grim situation was likely to prompt tens of thousands of Afghans to flee to neighboring countries in the coming months. He said the Red Cross was preparing to provide them with the protection and humanitarian assistance they needed.

“So, the situation in Afghanistan right now is quite worrying and that’s why we are prepared for even the worst case scenario. The displacement probably won’t happen, but it’s better for us to be prepared now than waiting for a massive mass transfer to occur without knowing how to deal with it.”

The Red Cross said it needed $24 million to provide aid and protection to some 160,000 Afghan refugees during the first 12 months. The organization said it would focus most of its efforts on Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan, but added that preparations could be extended to other asylum countries in Central Asia. [rd/jm]

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