Keep borders open, UNHCR tells neighbours of Afghanistan

Geneva, Aug 21: The UN refugee agency has called on countries neighbouring Afghanistan to keep their borders open in light of the evolving crisis in the South Asian nation.

“As of today, those who may be in danger have no way out,” UN Human Commission for Refugees spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said, voicing concern over the risk of human rights violations against civilians, especially women and girls, in the evolving situation in Afghansitan.

Highlighting video footage taken earlier this week showing crowds outside Kabul airport and men clinging in desperation to departing airplanes on the runway, the UNHCR official warned that the Afghans who could not get away should not be forgotten.

The UNHCR official added that the agency was not involved in State-led evacuation operations, which although welcome, did not address the plight of many millions of Afghans.

“These evacuations are lifesaving, they’re critical, they’re needed”, said Mantoo, addressing questions on Friday.

“But they are bilateral programmes organized with the States so we encourage those, they should continue. But the main message is that a broader international response is needed,” Mantoo said.

Since the beginning of this year, UNHCR has provided emergency assistance to 230,000 people in the country, including cash assistance, hygiene support and other relief items.

Needs assessments are also ongoing for some half a million displaced Afghans, 80 per cent of whom are women and children.

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