A. Situation analysis
Description of the disaster
Amidst the uncertainty of the country situation, an increase in internal violence, clashes, conflict-based deaths and infrastructure damage was experienced in direct response. After nearly two decades in the country, the US President announced the withdrawal of all American and NATO troops from Afghanistan in April 2021, aiming to complete the withdrawal by 11 September 2021. With most of the foreign troops having departed by the end of July, the Taliban had seized control of the entire country by 16 August when they took over Kabul. With the collapse of the Afghan government, the group now has de facto power throughout the country and is forming a new government.
In recent months, there has been a considerable decline in the already fragile security and human rights situation across the country. According to UNHCR, as of 29 August 2021, over 570,000 Afghans are estimated to have been internally displaced since the start of the year (2021), out of which 80 per cent are women and children. These circumstances have increased humanitarian needs and assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) and triggered a new wave of cross-border displacement to neighbouring countries (primarily Pakistan and Iran) of people seeking refuge and safety. With the situation evolving rapidly and remaining uncertain, over 515,000 additional people are anticipated to flee across the borders as asylum seekers and Afghan nationals in the worst-case scenario. It is not possible to predict a timeframe for this movement at this time. This will depend on the level of influx beginning in September.
Based on local media sources, since the middle of August 2021, Afghan nationals with valid visas and Proof of Registration (PoR) cards from all corners of the country are seeking safe refuge from Taliban rule and have started entering Pakistan. Afghans nationals have already started arriving in Pakistan via the shared border across the Durand. Traffic at the border crossing at Chaman in Pakistan has also risen four-fold, with as many as 20,000 entering the country each day. In addition, some media reports, including Al Jazeera News, highlighted that thousands of Afghans with valid visas and PoR cards had entered Pakistan through the Spin Boldak/Chaman border crossing from southeast Afghanistan since the Afghan Taliban took over the country.
The decades-long conflict in Afghanistan has already resulted in a huge influx of Afghans into Pakistan seeking shelter, security, refuge, and livelihood, many of whom seek refuge in the country’s main urban centres. Before the withdrawal of troops, the country was already hosting around 1.4 million registered Afghan nationals (recognized by the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR) and an estimated 1.4 million more unregistered and undocumented people from Afghanistan seeking refuge in Pakistan. According to UNHCR latest Global Trends Report 2021, Pakistan was hosting the 4th largest population of Afghan nationals globally (estimated 1.4m) in 2011. With Afghanistan sharing the longest border with Pakistan, the country has undergone a huge influx of Afghan people seeking refuge since 1980. Similarly, the temporarily displaced population from Swat and the then Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) remained another challenge from 2007 till 2014 for Pakistan, which affected the socio-economic situation in the country. With the U.S evacuation completed and the Kabul airport now under Taliban control7, an increase of activity is expected on the borders through both formal and informal border crossing points, further exacerbating the already overwhelming situation.
On 27 August, the Official of the Pakistan government verbally updated in a meeting with PRCS officials that the government is planning to set up camps near border crossing points for Afghan nationals coming into Pakistan, with COVID-19 screening at the entry point to contain any additional surge. The government plans to establish a proper desk for registration of Afghan nationals linked with placement to access to life-saving amenities inclusive of health, education, clean drinking water and provision of food. As the UNHCR Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan highlights, any major influx will require the international community to support an immediate and sustained intervention to Afghanistan’s neighbours, in a spirit of responsibility- and burden-sharing.
The PRCS, jointly with its Movement Partners, is working to enhance its preparedness to support the government for an effective response. Critical life-saving humanitarian assistance will be required for the anticipated Afghan arrivals at border points and in designated sites in coordination with concerned government counterparts. Building on its technical expertise and experience in emergency response, PRCS aims to provide access to basic necessities and humanitarian aid to incoming Afghan nationals through interventions focused on health and first aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), cash voucher assistance (CVA), protection, and restoring family links (RFL) services.