Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - MERGE - Migration and the Middle East

MERGE Brief, August 2021

Here are the significant migration-related developments of last month in and around the Middle East region.

The war in Afghanistan has entered a more destructive phase when the country is at a dangerous turning point following the withdrawal of US; and NATO troops after 20 years of involvement in the war.he Taliban has advanced on major cities in the country while inflicting enormous harm and causing massive civilian casualties. On the 15th of August the Taliban took the presidential palace in Kabul, and reportedly entered the capital encountering little resistance; hours after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. When the evacuation of all personnel at the US Embassy in Kabul and Western diplomats continued, many Western countries including Germany closed their embassy in Kabul. After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Hamid Karzai International Airport bears witness to a nightmarish struggle for many Afghan civilians as they are trying to flee the country.

The options for Afghans hoping to flee are very limited. A UNHCR spokesperson said “The vast majority of Afghans are not able to leave the country through regular channels. As of today, those who may be in danger have no clear way out.” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid told a press conference that they were “not allowing the evacuations of Afghans anymore” and gave notice that the US must stick to the August 31 deadline to withdraw its troops out of Afghanistan. Mujahid added that “The road, which goes to the airport, is blocked. Afghans cannot take that road to go to the airport, but foreign nationals are allowed to take that road to the airport.” Several thousands of Afghans were said to have crossed into neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Iran before the roads were blocked. The number of Afghans who are trying to flee the country has increased dramatically after the Taliban seized back control all over the country. At least 2.2 million registered Afghan refugees are already in the neighboring countries and 3.5 million people are forced to flee their homes within the Afghanistan border. Thursday 26th two blasts and gunfire occurred near the Kabul airport gates. At least 170 people had died and dozens of people were injured. The chaotic situation is escalating after the blast, and new ones are expected to occur. Official transition of power from Afghanistan government to Taliban is planned for September. To read more on the subject; click on the news articles suggestions:

Fighting between Assad regime forces and opposition groups in the southern Syrian province of Daraa, the former opposition hub known as “the birthplace of revolution”, killed at least 28 people and forced 18.000 to flee the country. UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Bachelet said “In recent days, they have only been allowing pedestrians out of Daraa al-Balad along the al-Saraya road, subjecting people to strict security checks” and added that civilians in Daraa “were effectively under siege.”

In the capital of Turkey, Ankara, hundreds of people poured into the street to attack the homes and businesses of Syrians. Crowds were chanting anti-Syrian and Islamist slogans while attacking people, while police failing to stop them. Anti-refugee sentiments have increased remarkably in Turkey, following the arrival of thousands of Afghans.

A fuel explosion in Akkar district, Lebanon, killed at least 28 people and injured dozens.  Officials did not say what had caused the explosion. The Lebanese Army said that the explosion occurred when the army members had been distributing the confiscated fuel to local residents. Lebanon is experiencing a severe fuel shortage while hospitals, schools and other essential facilities are no longer able to function properly. In late July 2021, Lebanon signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to import 1 million tons of Iraqi fuel while  Lebanon’s Hezbollah says they will begin importing fuel from Iran.