Gulf States receive Afghans in transit; express concerns over massive refugee flow


Governments of Arab Gulf states are concerned about the possible implications of the renewed instability in Afghanistan and the flow of refugees, observers said.

Gulf States fear the Taliban takeover could result in massive refugee flows, a humanitarian crisis and a potential renewal of civil war, which poses a serious threat for the security of the wider region, they explained.

Bahrain on Saturday said it is “allowing flights to make use of Bahrain’s transit facilities” amid the evacuations of Afghanistan in a statement released early Saturday (Aug. 21).

The announcement came as the United States faced issues Friday (Aug. 20) with its facilities at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar filling up with those fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country.

The kingdom also said it is hoping that “all parties will commit to stabilising the internal situation and to protecting the lives of civilians and the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has agreed to host 5,000 Afghan nationals who were evacuated from Afghanistan on their way to third countries, the UAE’s embassy in the United States said on Twitter on Friday.

The UAE government announced on Aug.18 it was hosting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his family “on humanitarian grounds” after they fled Kabul.

The UAE and regional ally Saudi Arabia have limited their response to the Taliban takeover of Kabul to saying they would respect the choice of Afghans and urging the Taliban to foster security and stability after a 20-year insurgency against US-backed rule.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, among the few who recognised the Taliban’s radical 1996-2001 rule in Afghanistan, will likely take a pragmatic approach to its return to power despite fears it could embolden militant Islam abroad, according to experts.

Concerns about the flow of Afghan migrants are shared by other countries in the region as well as Europe, where attitudes toward migrants have hardened following the 2015 crisis.

Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015 fuelled the rise of far-right parties like the Alternative for Germany, the biggest opposition party in parliament ahead of the federal election next month.

In Turkey, migrants from Syria and Afghanistan, once treated like Muslim brethren, are increasingly viewed with suspicion as the country grapples with economic problems including rising inflation and unemployment.

Acknowledging the public’s “unease” about migration, Turkish President Rcep Tayyip Erdogan noted how his government has reinforced the eastern border with Iran with military, gendarmerie, police and the new wall, which has been under construction since 2017.

UNHCR estimates that 90% of the 2.6 million Afghan refugees outside of the country live in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. Both countries also host large numbers of Afghans who left in search of better economic opportunities.

Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Taliban takeover will result in a new refugee crisis.

“I would warn against a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. Afghans are “scared, bewildered but also hopeful that a long, long war will be over and maybe now they can avoid the crossfire.”

He said much depends on the Taliban allowing development and humanitarian work in the country and on donor nations continuing to fund those efforts.

“If you would have a collapse of public services and if there would be a major food crisis, there will be for sure a mass movement of people,” Egeland said. (Source: The Arab Weekly)