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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

UN refugee chief commends Qatar for ‘dignified’ transit for Afghan evacuees


Qatar has worked with its international partners and the Taliban to facilitate the reopening of Kabul’s airport for civilian flights.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi commended Qatar for providing Afghan and foreign evacuees with a “dignified” transit, in comments made during his visit to one of the accommodations temporarily housing those who left Kabul.

On Saturday, Grandi toured the compound in Doha alongside Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al Khater, who has been at the forefront of facilitating the evacuations since the operation first began in mid August.

Qatar has managed to evacuate nearly 60,000 Afghans and foreigners from Kabul in recent weeks while simultaneously leading efforts to re-launch passenger flights from Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Two passenger flights landed in Doha from Kabul over the weekend.

While the UN has dismissed the possibility of a mass refugee crisis, it raised concerns over the increasing number of those internally displaced in Afghanistan, calling for the need to provide urgent humanitarian aid.

Read also: Kabul airport ‘operational’ as second flight lands in Doha

Grandi warned that the number of displaced would increase if the economy, health and education services completely collapse. There has also been a particular concern over the looming winter season, which would further worsen the situation of those in need of aid.

“Winter is coming, we need to help people organise themselves for the very harsh Afghan winter. My organisation, UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], is especially focused on more than three and a half million displaced Afghans,” Grandi told the press following a tour in Doha.

Grandi noted that some half a million of Afghans forced to flee to the streets have been displaced in recent weeks alone.

“We need to help them survive the winter and live in dignity…if the conditions deteriorate, if we abandon Afghanistan, if the international community does not follow Qatar’s example then you risk a very massive displacement of people,” said Grandi.

Qatar has been operating daily aid flights to Afghanistan, with the fifth shipment arriving at Kabul’s airport on Saturday.

The UN recently said its stockpiles of food in Afghanistan could run out this month, warning of a hunger crisis that will exacerbate the many challenges facing the country.

UN humanitarian chief in Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov said about one third of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million does not know whether they will have a meal every day.

This echoes previous concerns raised by the WFP, which said at least $200 million is needed in order to feed people in Afghanistan, especially with winter approaching and amid an ongoing drought.

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