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The Azadi Briefing: Afghan Refugees Complain Of Prisonlike Conditions In The U.A.E.

Thousands of Afghan evacuees remain stranded in temporary accommodation abroad, not just in the U.A.E., but also in Qatar, Kosovo, and Albania. (file photo)
Thousands of Afghan evacuees remain stranded in temporary accommodation abroad, not just in the U.A.E., but also in Qatar, Kosovo, and Albania. (file photo)

Welcome back to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Mustafa Sarwar, a senior news editor at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the United States, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and other countries evacuated tens of thousands of Afghans to temporary facilities around the world.

The U.A.E. took in thousands of Afghans, housing them in makeshift refugee housing. Many of the Afghans were later resettled to the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. But up to 2,700 Afghans remain stranded in the Gulf nation after not qualifying for resettlement.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the U.A.E. of “arbitrarily detaining” the remaining Afghans. In a report issued on March 15, the rights group said the U.A.E. was keeping “thousands of Afghan asylum seekers locked up for over 15 months in cramped, miserable conditions with no hope of progress on their cases."

The Gulf nation denied reports of dire living conditions and said it was working with the United States to resettle the remaining evacuees in a “timely manner.”

Dayan Fayez, an Afghan evacuee in the U.A.E., told Radio Azadi that they have limited access to basic services, including education. Another Afghan evacuee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they are “not allowed to go outside the camp.”

Why It's Important: The allegations highlight what activists have called the shocking plight of Afghans stranded in limbo in the U.A.E.

Thousands of other Afghan evacuees remain stranded in temporary housing in Qatar, Kosovo, and Albania as they wait to be resettled to third countries. Some Afghans in those facilities have also complained of mistreatment.

Many Afghan evacuees have protested what they call the protracted resettlement process to the United States and elsewhere, with rights groups repeatedly calling for Washington and other governments to fast-track the process.

What's Next: The fate of the Afghan refugees in the U.A.E., who are not eligible for resettlement elsewhere, remains unclear.

Many of the Afghans have said they cannot return to Afghanistan because they fear reprisals from the Taliban, which has been accused of widespread human rights abuses since seizing power.

Many Afghans who fled their homeland had worked in some capacity for the Western-backed Afghan government that collapsed, the NATO-led mission in the country, or for Western embassies or organizations, making them a target for retribution.

The Week's Best Stories

Dozens of Afghan refugees hoping to emigrate to the West have become stranded in Pakistan, sheltering in a squalid camp in the capital, Islamabad. They fled Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in 2021. Women vastly outnumber men at the refugee camp. In this video, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal visited the camp where refugees struggle to survive on handouts from charities.

March 11 marked the anniversary of the destruction of Bamiyan’s sixth-century Buddha statues by the Taliban in 2001. Archaeologists working to preserve what little cultural heritage is still present in the Bamiyan Valley have been dealing with illegal excavations, encroaching developments, and Taliban gunmen who use the remnants of the Buddhas for target practice.​

What To Keep An Eye On

India offered Taliban diplomats and officials an online course in economics and leadership.

The four-day program -- called ‘immersing with Indian thoughts’ -- started on March 14 and was attended by several members of the Taliban, according to Indian media.

The training course was organized by India’s Ministry of External Affairs. The program covered India’s “economic environment, regulatory ecosystem, leadership insights, social and historical backdrop, cultural heritage, legal and environmental landscape, consumer mindsets and business risks.”​

Why It's Important: India’s offer of training courses to the Taliban raised eyebrows.

India is a longtime foe of the Taliban. In the 1990s, New Delhi backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. After the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, India was a close ally of the Western-backed Afghan government. The Taliban, on the other hand, is a historical ally of Pakistan, India’s archenemy.

Since the Taliban regained power, New Delhi has expressed concerns about the threat of terrorism emanating from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and criticized the militant group’s human rights abuses. But its offer of online courses to the Taliban could hint at India’s attempt to establish some sort of relations with the militant group.

India on March 16 said the offer of training courses did not mean it had recognized the Taliban government. No country in the world has yet to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Mustafa Sarwar

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.

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    Mustafa Sarwar

    Mustafa Sarwar is a senior news editor for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, one of the most popular and trusted media outlets in Afghanistan. Nearly half of the country's adult audience accesses Azadi's reporting on a weekly basis.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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