Rise to Peace blog

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Persistent Challenges Facing Afghan Refugees

With the eyes of the world fixated on the crisis in Ukraine, the dire situation in Afghanistan and the plight of Afghan refugees grows ever more critical. An unstable Afghanistan has created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world today. Moreover, inaction on the part of policymakers contributes to this and the deterioration of regional instability. For the appropriate stakeholders to make informed policy on these issues, they must understand the present conditions befalling the Afghan people within their nation and abroad.

Searching for Solace

In the pursuit of safety for their families, a significant number of Afghans fleeing from the Taliban regime have made a perilous trek across Iran into Turkey. However, several geopolitical developments have weakened the human security of Afghan refugees escaping the turmoil of Afghanistan. A contributing factor is a tightening of border security within Turkey due to the strain migration has had on its resources.

Even with added security, the most perilous stage of their journey has been crossing from Iran into Turkey. This has been made evident with the discovery of migrants who froze along the Turkish-Iranian border.

Refugees who have made it inside of Turkey still face many considerable challenges toward the establishment of new lives. Many who fled to Turkey did so without documentation as they were in fear of a return to a Taliban-led Afghanistan. Due to this, many face deportation in Turkey as well as Iran.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also magnifying the problems of the refugees as they are having trouble receiving adequate access to vaccines which are desperately needed.

Afghans who have made it to safety in the U.S. are met with hindrances to their security. One such issue they face is finding a direct pathway to permanent legal residency within the country. This problem has worsened by the backlog of applications preventing them from doing so. Another such issue preventing the settlement of refugees has been the lack of affordable housing throughout the United States. They have also faced difficulty in receiving the critical health care needed while waiting for resettlement.

Winter is Coming

Many Afghans have escaped Taliban rule, and geopolitical developments in the region have magnified their plight. When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, they were met with the freezing of their funds belonging to the previous Ghani administration. As of late, many of the financial resources of the Taliban regime remain frozen by the Biden administration.

With more countries in the region having their resources strained by the influx of migrants, they have made a conscious effort to send aid to keep Afghans there without trying to guarantee their rights. Such an environment has allowed the Taliban to target the LGBT community within the country, depriving them of their most basic human rights.

How Policymakers Can Respond

Given the severity of the Afghans’ situation, it has become clear that there needs to be an intervention by relevant stakeholders to ensure their safety and security. The opening of financial resources and legal aid from multilateral institutions would greatly reduce the burden placed upon refugees. Without such aid, many Afghans face deportation back to a state which will dramatically compromise their security.

Nations with the ability to do so must increase efforts to ensure the human rights of Afghan citizens. States trying to formalize ties to the new Taliban government have done so with caution, but there remains uncertainty due to their citizens’ treatment and ideological fervor. Such actions breed resentment against the Taliban and create the opportunity for the cycle of violence to begin anew.

Therefore, it is imperative for human rights to be preserved within Afghanistan to show the rest of the region that they may help rebuild the war-torn society.


Christopher Ynclan Jr., Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


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