Washington, D.C. – As the United States military leaves Afghanistan and shutters its embassy there, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) urges the Biden Administration and the international community to uphold their moral and legal obligations to ensure vulnerable Afghans, including children forced to flee because of heightened violence and threats posed by the Taliban, can access protection. These children, including young women and girls who are particularly vulnerable as instability grows, need safe passage out of the nation, safe harbor in neighboring countries, and protection once they reach their destination.
“The United States has a unique responsibility to lead in the protection of those who need to be brought to safety as a result of the current crisis in Afghanistan, especially children and families who are now in the crosshairs of the Taliban,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “We urge President Biden to ensure that our nation’s mission now focuses on welcoming Afghan refugees, especially vulnerable populations, and supporting other nations in Europe and Central Asia that will see significant increases in refugee arrivals because of the current instability.”
In 2021, more than 270,000 Afghans have been displaced and about 30,000 Afghans, including children, have fled each week since the end of July. This troubling trend is expected to intensify as the Taliban assert control throughout Afghanistan and human rights and security within the nation deteriorate.
The United States and Canada have committed to taking in Afghans through special visa programs and refugee resettlement, an important step. These nations should act now to expedite processing and evacuate applicants and their families who are at risk. In addition, the United Kingdom has committed to resettling 20,000 Afghans, initially prioritizing women, girls, and other vulnerable populations. While the European Union is considering resettling Afghan refugees, Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia announced yesterday that they will provide temporary shelter to Afghans seeking safety in the United States, the first European countries to do so.
While KIND welcomes these commitments, they alone are not enough. Any comprehensive approach to this humanitarian and refugee crisis must include the following:
- U.S., Canadian, and European support for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and other neighboring countries to provide safe harbor for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable Afghans seeking protection until they can be resettled and relocated by countries pledging to take them in.
- A commitment from countries in the region and countries to which unaccompanied children and other vulnerable Afghans may flee—including Turkey and, European and neighboring countries—to grant access to territory for those escaping dangers in Afghanistan. This includes keeping borders open and refraining from pushing back people at borders and on boats, as well as ensuring refugees the right to seek asylum.
- Assurances that Afghans arriving in the EU will not be confined to hotspots or subjected to policies that compel their return to Turkey to seek asylum, a country from which they risk being forcibly deported to Afghanistan. Currently, even unaccompanied Afghan children arriving in Greece from Turkey may be denied the right to seek asylum in Greece under the flawed premise that Turkey is safe for them.
- An immediate suspension of deportations of those already in a host country and of all forms of forced returns to Afghanistan.
“The current situation in Afghanistan will test the world’s resolve to provide access to safety for vulnerable refugees fleeing for the lives,” concluded Young. “We should not compound the tragedies that have already occurred by failing to protect the children and families who are in danger. KIND urges the Biden Administration to join with world leaders in following international laws and human rights obligations to provide access to a haven for children who otherwise will suffer severe human rights violations at home, or face risks such as human trafficking, exploitation, and even death in their effort to escape.”
KIND is the preeminent U.S.-based nongovernmental organization devoted to protection of unaccompanied and separated children. KIND envisions a world in which every unaccompanied child on the move has access to legal counsel and has their rights and well-being protected as they migrate alone in search of safety. Through its European Initiative, KIND and partners in Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, and the United Kingdom work to ensure access to high quality pro bono legal assistance for unaccompanied and separated children in Europe, while seeking to strengthen their rights.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990