Afghan refugees from Nimroz province flee to Iran as violence escalates

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is extremely concerned by the rapid escalation of conflict in Afghanistan this week, and urged the Iranian authorities to keep the Milak border crossing, near Zaranj in Nimroz province, open for Afghan refugees.

According to a statement issued by the UNHCR on Tuesday, nearly 200 Afghan refugees fled to Iran over the weekend amid intensified clashes in Nimruz.

The UNHCR warned that many more Afghan civilians may find themselves trapped if they are unable to escape from the highly volatile situation.

“UNHCR has urged the Iranian authorities to keep the Milak border crossing open in light of the intensifying humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Not doing so may put thousands of lives at risk,” the statement read.

In cooperation with Iran’s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA), UNHCR has already provided immediate assistance to new arrivals, including food and water.

According to the statement, the UNHCR and partners have Tuesday joined an inter-agency mission led by the government to border areas and potential refugee sites, to further assess the humanitarian needs on the ground and scale up the response.

“Together with other humanitarian actors, UNHCR is prepared to provide urgent assistance and support reception arrangements – including emergency shelter, latrines and other core relief items.

“Hygiene packs, including soap and face masks, will also be distributed to help families arriving to stay safe in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement read.

With almost one million Afghan refugee cardholders already in Iran, Tehran has consistently welcomed Afghans fleeing protracted conflict and violence for over 40 years, including through exemplary inclusion of Afghans in national health and education systems, the UNHCR stated.

“No large-scale displacement across borders from Afghanistan has been observed this year. Any major influx would clearly require the international community to step up immediate and sustained support to both Afghanistan and its neighbours, in a spirit of responsibility- and burden-sharing,” the statement read.

According to the UNHCR, it is estimated that since the beginning of the year nearly 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced within the country – some 244,000 since May alone.