The Next Big Refugee Crisis Just Started
This article was originally published by Defense One on August 18, 2021.
The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban will likely spark a reinvigorated refugee—and broader forced displacement—crisis in a country where persistent humanitarian needs have doggedly accompanied fragile progress. Unless the United States and its partners sufficiently respond to this next big refugee crisis, millions of displaced Afghans in 2021 could make the 2015 migration crisis seem like a geopolitical walk in the park.
Afghans already made up the third-largest group of refugees (2.6 million) in the world at the end of 2020, behind only Syrians (6.7 million) and Venezuelans (4.0 million). Including the estimated 3 million internally displaced people living across the country, almost 6 million Afghans have been forced to leave their homes in recent years even before the Taliban takeover. Many of the roughly 40 million people still in Afghanistan are contemplating escape, especially women and children. It would not be surprising if the number of forcibly displaced Afghans—including refugees—doubles over the next couple of years, though their destinations and scale of displacement depending on at least two factors.