The Taliban* takeover of Afghanistan has prompted many Afghans to leave the country, seeking refuge in Europe and the US. Thousands are waiting for their paperwork to be processed, spending time in other nations, such as Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.
UAE to the Rescue?
The UAE is currently playing host to more than 8,000 Afghan
. All of them are being housed in Emirates Humanitarian City, located in Abu Dhabi. Some 5,000 arrived there via US military aircraft, while others were brought via UAE-owned evacuation planes or aircraft operated by NGOs.
A reliable source in Abu Dhabi, who is linked to the highest echelons of the government and who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, says they are being provided with “everything they need” while they are being hosted by the UAE. But he also said that they will need to leave once their visas to other destinations are finalised.
The UAE is far from being the only country that has been wary of letting Afghan refugees
. Other Muslim nations, including Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and several Gulf nations, have been reluctant to do so as well.
And the reason for this, says the source, is the fear of terrorist infiltration. “The UAE hosts millions of expats from 200 nationalities. It doesn’t mind hosting more from Afghanistan, but the real issue that hinders such efforts is the vetting process”.
“Afghanistan was a playground for al-Qaeda* and other extremist militant groups [for years] and we don’t want their militants on UAE soil, so this makes the assistance process more complicated”.
Although the UAE has never faced an acute terrorism problem before, primarily due to its strict policies on the issue, its concerns are well grounded, especially because terrorists have used refugees in the past to promote their agenda.
REUTERS / KAI PFAFFENBACH
Such was the case in 2016, when German security forces thwarted a
in Berlin and declared that Daesh* has been deliberately sending its operatives to Europe under the guise of refugees.
Similar reports also emerged in 2017, and now with the influx of Afghan refugees, the threat of a terrorist surge has become
Abu Dhabi is not the only one worried. Other countries, including
, Greece, and
have expressed similar concerns, with the latter even starting to construct a wall aimed at protecting itself from another wave of refugees.
Committed to Helping
The source in Abu Dhabi says his government does understand the policies that other states have been taking to protect themselves. But he also acknowledges the humanitarian crisis currently unfolding because of the situation in Afghanistan.
AFP 2021 / NILS MEILVANG
According to a report by the UK House of Commons, from January to June, when the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces was at its peak, more than 5,100 people were killed or injured, some 32 percent of those were children.
In addition, the same report indicated that 3.5 million Afghans are internally displaced persons, dispersed across the country. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s population or more than 18 million people, are in constant need of humanitarian assistance.
“The UAE will continue its diplomatic efforts, together with its allies in the region, to help those who want to leave Afghanistan”, said the official, adding that his country will be willing to take in more Afghan refugees “if there is a need and if it is properly coordinated with [the nation’s] partners”.
*The Taliban, Daesh, (also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State), and al-Qaeda are terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries.