Afghanistan + 5 more

Afghanistan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP): 2021 Final Report

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Regional Overview

The drastic deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan in 2021, resulting in forced displacement, required the activation of the Refugee Coordination Model and the rapid scale-up of interagency preparedness in neighbouring countries. In August, UNHCR led the development of the interagency Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan (RRP), which outlined the humanitarian preparedness and priority interventions by 11 participating partners in Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. As a new outflow had not been witnessed in 20 years, the RRP was developed to put in place adequate preparedness and response measures to support governments, in coordination with partners. RRP 2021 covered the emergency period from July to December 2021, including contingency efforts that were put in place in July. The interagency planning process was aligned with contingency planning efforts inside and outside Afghanistan and projections coordinated with the UN Country Team inside Afghanistan. While emergency preparedness and response efforts for the potential new influx were ongoing, interagency partners continued programmes to support the existing 2.2 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries in the region which were critically underfunded. As such, RRP 2021 integrated preparedness and response to new influxes with critically underfunded elements of existing programmes for in-situ Afghans in neighbouring countries in one plan.

The upsurge of violence and human rights violations across the country in 2021, combined with hardships caused by political uncertainty and the economic and food security situation, resulted in significant forced displacement, both internally and across borders. Some 700,000 people (59 per cent women; 21 per cent children)1 were internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan in 2021, bringing to 3.4 million the number who remain internally displaced by conflict inside the country. Afghans who fled the country faced different border management practices across the region (covered in detail in country chapters). In general borders were tightly regulated, limiting the ability of Afghans to exercise their right to seek asylum and resulting in much irregular movement. This increased vulnerabilities and protection risks, including exploitation and abuse of those without documentation. Nonetheless, 158,370 Afghans in need of international protection are reported to have arrived in neighbouring countries in 2021. However, as there are several impediments to accessing UNHCR and/or government asylum systems in host countries, it is believed that the number of Afghans in need of international protection is significantly higher.

UNHCR released a non-return advisory for Afghanistan in August 2021 calling on all countries to allow civilians fleeing Afghanistan access to their territories, to asylum, and to respect the principle of non-refoulement at all times. Non-refoulement includes rejection of individuals seeking international protection at the frontier. Nonetheless, reports of forced returns to Afghanistan continued throughout 2021The non-return advisory was reiterated by the subsequent issuing of the “UNHCR Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Afghanistan” in February 2022. The guidance renews calls on all countries to allow civilians fleeing Afghanistan access to their territories, to guarantee the right to seek asylum, suspend deportations (including of Afghans whose asylum claims have been rejected) and to ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement at all times. It calls on States to register all arrivals who seek international protection and to issue documentary proof of registration to all individuals concerned, as well as to facilitate and expedite family reunification procedures for Afghans whose families are left behind in Afghanistan or who have been displaced across the region.

According to OHCHR, although the decline in hostilities has seen a sharp decrease in civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the human rights situation for many Afghans remains of profound concern, including the situation of human rights defenders, media workers, ethnic minorities, and women. Since August 2021, women have largely been excluded from the workforce both as a result of the economic crisis and restrictions imposed by the de facto authorities. In the public sector, exceptions are made in some cases for women working in healthcare, primary schools, as well as for a very small number of female civil servants. Limitations on women’s freedom of movement have negatively impacted several aspects of women’s lives, including preventing them from accessing health services. The closure of many women’s protection shelters has also left women at risk while justice system mechanisms established to deal with cases of gender-based violence are largely non-functional. In addition, according to a UNDP report, 72 per cent of Afghans are already living below the poverty line, with a risk of this rising to 97 per cent in 2022. The situation will continue to have a significant impact on neighbouring countries, emphasizing the importance of an inclusive response in all countries. This Report outlines the response from July – December 2021, while in response to continuing requirements in host countries, RRP 2022 has been released.