January 22, 2013
The withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan could prompt an increase in the number of Afghans seeking refuge around the world, including in Australia, according to a new report by the global consultancy group STATT.
Australian forces are due to hand over control for security in Uruzgan province to local authorities by the end of this year, ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of coalition troops.
The report by STATT, which lists AusAID as a recent donor, warns that any protracted conflict caused by the transition of power in Afghanistan will likely cause “mass displacement” of people.
It says those living in the central regions of Afghanistan who become affected by any violence will “orient” themselves to Kabul, Iran and Australia.
However, the report notes that traditional western destinations for Afghans seeking long-term relocation have become less welcoming in recent years, in part because of their financial support for the international military intervention.
“The international commitment to development and security in Afghanistan has contributed to Western destinations’ willingness to prevent asylum-seeking, their inclination to decide that Afghans are not refugees and their domestic latitude to enforce returns,” the STATT report states.
According to STATT, the increasingly restrictive asylum policies in western nations have prompted an “ironic price spiral”.
“Development money from foreign donors has increased the number of Afghans who can afford to subvert those donors’ border controls in order to claim asylum or live illegally there,” the report states.
The report also suggests that Afghanistan’s “elites” are likely to pursue family visas through relatives in Europe, Australia and North America.
According to the analysis by STATT, any medium-term problems in Afghanistan will present challenges to the international refugee system, adding that it would be wise to undertake contingency planning.
Of the 35,729 asylum applications made globally by Afghans in 2011, more than 93 per cent were made to European countries.
However, according to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there was a 59 per cent increase in the number of Afghans who applied for asylum in Australia during the first half of 2012 compared with corresponding period in 2011.
So far this year, the Australian Government says five asylum seeker boats have been intercepted by authorities, although it is unclear where the passengers originally came from.
Fewer boats traditionally arrive in Australian waters over the summer monsoon season.