PSPD in English Int. Solidarity 2021-08-20   1966

The South Korean government should provide safe passage for Afghan refugees

The South Korean government should provide safe passage for Afghan refugees

The international community should ensure all diplomatic efforts for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan


The Taliban took over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and the government eventually handed over power to the Taliban. It is the first time in 20 years since the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. “There will be no retaliation against the Afghan people,” a Taliban spokesman said, but a large number of people are fleeing from the threat of the Taliban and thousands of people have rushed to Kabul airport. Tragic situations have been reported all over the world, with people hanging on planes, desperately trying to escape from the country.


The current situation of Afghanistan we are witnessing is by no means irrelevant to the Republic of Korea. South Korea is one of the countries that sent troops to support the U.S. war on terrorism in Afghanistan. It also joined the occupation of Afghanistan under the name of “reconstruction”. South Korea dispatched Dongui and Dasan units in 2002, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), and Oshino units in 2010, and provided more than $1 billion under the pretext of local stabilization and reconstruction. We are here as we found ourselves responsible for the devastating situation in Afghanistan, therefore strongly urge the Korean government to come up with measures to protect refugees in Afghanistan and to work closely with the international community to settle peace in Afghanistan.


First, the South Korean government must identify the local residents and their families who worked for the Provincial Reconstruction Team, and other related agencies in Afghanistan and come up with protection measures. 


Recent media reports have revealed that local employees who worked as interpreters, medical staff, and office workers in Korean institutions have asked the Korean government for protection. Their safety is greatly threatened because they have worked for the foreign government. The withdrawal of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and Korean nationals were completed on the 17th of August, but the government has not yet come up with safe passage for those in danger because of the fact that they helped the Korean institutions. At the time of the withdrawal of the Oshino Unit in 2014, the civil society urged the government to provide protection measures for local staff threatened by the Taliban, but the government failed to do so. Although not enough, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, and Germany are currently undergoing procedures to help evacuate local employees and their families. The South Korean government should also come up with safety protection measures for those who worked for South Korean organizations in Afghanistan and take necessary measures, such as support for evacuation or granting visas, if desired.


Second, the South Korean government must provide protection measures for the Afghans until there is a significant change in Afghanistan.


Currently, there are Afghan migrants in South Korea who have lived or fled for various reasons. However, most of them are not protected as refugees due to the harsh refugee status determination procedure in South Korea. Some of them are on the verge of deportation or about to be detained in the immigration detention center. On the 17th, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated “More than 550,000 Afghans have been displaced by conflict and instability since the beginning of the year” and appealed to the international community to “not forcibly return Afghanistan nationals to their country.” We urge the South Korean government for immediate implementation of procedures such as suspension of deportation, no-detention policy, and extension of their visa in consideration of local circumstances in Afghanistan.


Third, an assessment of the War on Terror led by the United States is needed, and South Korea should not be an exception. 


The Afghans have suffered for a long time from the U.S. invasion. More than 240,000 people have been killed in the wars over the past two decades and more than 70,000 of whom are civilians, according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that there were currently about 2.6 million refugees in Afghanistan around the world and 3.5 million displaced people. The current situation after the withdrawal of U.S. troops clearly shows that the U.S. unilateral goal of establishing a “normal state” in Afghanistan and its attempt to “support for reconstruction” with the military at the forefront were illusions. Even the special inspection body for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, formed by the U.S. Congress, said, “Some of the U.S. reconstruction projects in Afghanistan were successful, but too many failures were made,” and “the U.S. government did not understand the situation of Afghanistan.” No reflective evaluation by the South Korean government or the National Assembly on the dispatch and military intervention have been found yet. Twenty years ago, the international community strongly opposed war and military intervention and was concerned that the U.S.-led war and occupation would call for another extremism. The tragic consequences have also been revealed in Iraq and confirmed again today in Afghanistan. The Taliban were also extremist forces spawned by a long war and occupation. In the end, the U.S. withdrew with no responsibilities. The current situation in Afghanistan shows once again that war and military intervention do not solve the problems, and that reconstruction and peace cannot be achieved by coercion and occupation.


Fourth, the international community must ensure all diplomatic efforts for the peaceful settlement and guarantee human rights in Afghanistan 


The safety of the Afghans on the evacuation route is now seriously concerned due to the Taliban retaliation. This is because the Taliban brutally controlled the people and suppressed human rights, especially the rights of women and children by applying extreme Islamic laws when they took power in 1996. The former president and prime minister reportedly began negotiations with the Taliban while the president of Afghanistan escaped abroad. The Taliban officially said, “It will be different from 20 years ago,” and “We will respect women’s human rights, guarantee media activities without retaliation,” but the media reported that a female presenter has been suspended and that the Taliban fired at the protesters in Jalalabad. The Taliban must ensure peace, stability, and human rights in Afghanistan. The international community, including the South Korean government, should also make all diplomatic efforts with responsibilities to establish peace, guarantee human rights and protect the rights of women and refugees in Afghanistan.


We support the dignity and human rights of the Afghans and send solidarity to women who continue to speak to the international community in the face of threats. The South Korean civil society will watch, monitor, and speak out until peace is achieved in Afghanistan.


20 August 2021

The Coalition of 106 NGOs





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