Southern Times Writer
Windhoek – The Afghanistan refugee crisis this week reached Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with all three countries turning down overtures to accommodate people fleeing the Taliban takeover of their homeland.
As the United States retreated from its military occupation of Afghanistan mid-August, the fundamentalist Taliban movement – which Washington unsuccessfully sought to dislodge from the body politic for 20 years – regained control of the country, triggering panic among moderates and liberals.
This week, Executive Director in Namibia’s International Relations and Co-operation Ministry, Ambassador Penda Naanda, said the country had been approached to take in refugees but was not in a position to do so.
He added, “Namibia calls on all parties to exercise the utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs are being provided, to respect the rule of law and international humanitarian law, and to abstain from resorting to violence.”
Spokesperson in South Africa’s International Relations Ministry, Mr Clayton Monyela also said words to the same effect; as did Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson.
“The South African Government notes the overtures made to the country to consider receiving a number of Afghanistan refugees who have sought refuge in Pakistan. The request is that they be accommodated in South Africa en-route to their final destinations.
“The South African Government is unfortunately not in a position to accommodate such a request. South Africa is already home to a substantial number of refugees and is seized with addressing their needs. Most of them already benefit from the Social Assistance and free medical health programmes offered by our country.
“In terms of international law, the well-being of the refugees is best served by remaining in the first country of arrival, Pakistan, pending their final destinations,” Mr Monyela said.
The US invasion of Afghanistan lurched from one disaster to another, and the latest is a refugee crisis of proportions not witnessed in modern times.
Since August 14, more than 130,000 people have been evacuated from the country, not counting those who have fled by jumping borders.
Even before the Taliban takeover, more than 550,000 people already fled their homes this year due to instability in the country, according to the United Nations. There are an estimated 3.5 million internally displaced people in Afghanistan.
In addition, about 2.2 million refugees and asylum seekers have sought sanctuary abroad as of December 2020.