Afghanistan’s new national policy to protect the rights of some 630,000 internally displaced people recognizes that all Afghans have the right to freedom of movement and residence, the United Nations refugee agency today detailed.
The new policy, drafted with assistance from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), was launched today in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Briefing journalists in Geneva, spokesperson Melissa Fleming said the UN agency welcomed the newly adopted policy and was “encouraged” that it acknowledged the central responsibility of the Government in preventing conditions that lead to displacement, such as fighting. It also placed the Government as responsible for minimizing unavoidable displacement, as well as to mitigate and resolve its adverse effects.
“With the implementation of the policy, the displaced will not lose the rights or entitlements enjoyed by other citizens,” Ms. Fleming said.
Of the estimated 630,000 Afghans internally displaced, more than half live in urban areas. The displacement figures continue to rise, the UN agency said. The ongoing conflict displaced some 124,000 people in 2013 alone, an annual increase of 22 per cent.
During that same time, civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 14 per cent to 8,615, according to a report released on Saturday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which also found that 2013 was the worst year since 2009 in terms of the number of women and children killed or injured as a result of conflict-related violence.
In addition to protecting the rights of the displaced, the new policy establishes that the Government has the primary responsibility to provide emergency assistance, longer term support and effective protection to displaced Afghans.
This responsibility exists regardless of the cause of displacement, and applies whether displaced persons are living in settlements, with host families, in rural or in urban settings, and inside or outside their province of origin, UNHCR clarified.
It also noted that while Afghans will have the right to integrate in the place where they are living, return to their place of origin, or to relocate to a new place, “under no circumstances will displaced people be encouraged or compelled to return or relocate to areas where their lives will be at risk.”