States must simplify and expedite visa processes for people fearing for their safety and wishing to leave
The international community must do more to help Afghans at risk, following the dramatic Taliban takeover of their country.
Save the Children chief executive Inger Ashing called for states to simplify and expedite visa processes for people fearing for their safety and wishing to leave Afghanistan.
She said countries have an obligation under international law to allow refugees to ask for asylum and for safe passage to protect them from harm and to provide shelter – especially children.
In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Afghans, including tens of thousands of children, have fled violence into neighbouring countries. Some 100,000 have crossed through Iran and onto eastern Turkey, with an estimated 500 to 2,000 people arriving in Turkey every day since the beginning of July.
Some countries have already made preparations to take in a set number of arrivals in temporary shelters, while others have announced their intention to keep their borders closed.
Ashing said Afghan children and their families who have left the country in recent weeks must be kept safe and their rights must be protected under international law and there should be an immediate moratorium on all forced returns of Afghan nationals.
She said: "It is essential that in the early days of this crisis, countries keep their borders open and ensure that those arriving in their country, including children who have fled from violence, are safe and their rights are protected. Countries should continue to accept Afghan children and their families based on the humanitarian need – not targets.
"We are witnessing scenes of desperation in Afghanistan, where thousands of Afghans are trying to leave the country and unable to do so. We cannot abandon them.
"And, at the same as reports emerge of some mothers handing their children over the gates at Kabul airport to military personnel, asking them to take their children to safety, countries are closing their borders and thousands of visa applications sit unprocessed.
"We are asking the international community to fulfil their obligation to the Afghan people, which right now, means urgently guaranteeing safe passage out of the country for Afghans who may be at risk. Action must be taken to simplify and expedite visa processes. This is not the time for world governments to shirk their responsibilities.
"Save the Children stands ready to provide support to Afghan children displaced into the countries where we work, including separated and unaccompanied children. Our commitment to our work and staff in Afghanistan, to ensuring Afghan children a future free from violence, is as strong as ever."
Save the Children has worked in Afghanistan since 1976 to deliver lifesaving services to children and their families across the country but has had to temporarily suspended services. The organisation provided health, education, child protection, nutrition and livelihoods services, reaching over 1.6 million Afghans in 2020.
It says it aims to resume its work on health, education and child protection as soon as it’s safe to do so.
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