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Afghan IDPs Suffering Due to Government Inaction, Donor Fatigue

The number of internally displaced Afghans has doubled in the last three years, up from 500,000 in 2013, pointing to a sharp increase in people leaving their homes due to violence

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Afghan boy shepherds walk their sheep near temporary housing in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 30, 2016. Image source: AP
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  • One-point-two million Afghans are internally displaced due to conflict according to an Amnesty International report released in May, 2016
  • IDPs today lack basic essentials, including food and shelter, human rights groups say
  • Provincial governments that were required to help IDPs in their areas either ignored them or made the situation worse, according to SIGAR

The Afghan government has been unable to help some of its most vulnerable citizens, those displaced internally by violence, due to resistance from provincial governments, lack of capacity in key ministries, and corruption, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In an audit letter sent to the U.S. State Department and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) this week, SIGAR also pointed out the lack of coordination in non-governmental organizations trying to help internally displaced persons (IDPs).

One-point-two million Afghans are internally displaced due to conflict according to an Amnesty International report released in May.

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That number has doubled in the last three years, up from 500,000 in 2013, pointing to a sharp increase in people leaving their homes due to violence.

“Even after fleeing their homes to seek safety, increasing numbers of Afghans are languishing in appalling conditions in their own country, and fighting for their survival with no end in sight,” Champa Patel, South Asia director at Amnesty International said.

 In this May 30, 2016 photo, Afghan internally displaced family are seen at their temporary home in a camp for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan. Image source: AP
In this May 30, 2016 photo, Afghan internally displaced family are seen at their temporary home in a camp for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan. Image source: AP

Afghanistan developed a National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons in 2013, which was supposed to address both the urgent and long-term needs of IDPs and their host communities. The situation for the IDPs, however, has “dramatically worsened” since then, according to Amnesty.

Donor fatigue

With the international community also gradually losing interest in Afghanistan, and other crises around the world catching the attention of donors, aid to the country has dropped significantly. IDPs today lack basic essentials, including food and shelter, human rights groups say.

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On top of that, provincial governments that were required to help IDPs in their areas either ignored them or made the situation worse, according to SIGAR.

“[A]ccording to State, some provincial governments have not accepted that IDPs have a right to stay in their provinces and were more inclined to regard the IDPs as economic migrants who do not have the same rights, such as the right to food, water, adequate shelter, and health care, as other Afghans,” SIGAR’s letter said, adding that in some cases these governments demolished IDP settlements claiming they were supposed to be temporary.

 Management failures

The letter also pointed out that the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, MORR, which was supposed to distribute pieces of land to IDPs have so far only allocated a little over 50,000 plots, in response to half-a-million applications.

“MORR did not have the budget and lacked proper planning and procedures” to manage a medium- to long-term response to IDPs, according to SIGAR.

However, Sayed Huseen Alimi Balkhi, the Afghan minister of refugees and returnees, said his government was working hard to help the IDPs, despite difficult conditions.

“Based on the National Policy for the Resettlement of IDPs, they should be resettled, but in the past two years intensification of war has prevented the Afghan government from taking effective steps for resettlement of IDPs,” he said.

He added the Afghan government had worked hard for the rehabilitation of IDPs in Herat, Nangarhar, and Kabul provinces and work continued on shelter, and other infrastructure. (VOA)

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Why Does Trump Separate Families, A Policy Or A Law?

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018.
In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, June 17, 2018. VOA

The Trump administration at least since April has been separating children and parents who enter the United States illegally at the border — that much is supported by the numbers. But much of everything else surrounding the practice has become mired in confusion.

Here is what we know:

In recent weeks, news stories of children in detention centers have circulated more widely, and the numbers of detained children have grown.

Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Friday that between April 19 and May 31 of this year, nearly 2,000 (1,995) children were separated from their parents or other adults with whom they were traveling.

A video released Monday by Customs and Border Protection shows what appears to be humane conditions at a shelter site for children, but many worry that this video, the only video that has been released from within one of the detention centers, may not accurately depict them.

A policy or a law?

As criticism over the separation of parents and children at the border grows, the Trump administration has struggled to explain the policy.

Trump, himself, said the practice is the result of a law passed by Democrats, which has forced his administration into separating parents and children.

But there is no such law.

Rather in May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy, which means that those detained entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged. This approach generally leads to children being separated from their parents because the law requires it.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center's annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about religious liberty at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual leadership mission in Washington, June 13, 2018, VOA

On Sunday, senior policy adviser to the Trump administration Stephen Miller told The New York Times that the crackdown “was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry. Period.”

Administration officials, including Miller and Sessions, have defended the separation of families, saying that having children does not exempt anyone from the consequences of breaking the law.

“If you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, we’re going to prosecute you. … If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions told a gathering of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies.

The administration has said the new practice is directed at combating a “surge” of unlawful border crossings. But the “surge” appears to be numbers marking a return-to-normal after a dip last year.

Not a new idea

Though the practice of treating all people who cross the border unlawfully as subject to criminal prosecution is new under the Trump administration, it is built on existing policies from the Bush and Obama administrations.

Amid a surge of unlawful migration from Central America to the United States in 2014, the Obama administration considered many plans to deter illegal border crossings, including separating parents and children. Ultimately, Obama decided against separations but did expand the detention of immigrant families. New facilities were opened along the border, which held women and children for long periods of time before their cases were processed.

Following widespread criticism after photos of detained women and children, accompanied by testimonies of people being held for extended periods, a federal judge in Washington effectively ruled that asylum-seeking mothers could not be held for longer than 20 days, leading to what has been called a “catch and release” system where adults were released with GPS ankle monitors tracking their movements until their cases could be heard in court.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs' Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.
=U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018. VOAU.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 18, 2018.VOA

But this “catch and release” system has been heavily criticized by Trump and his administration.

Also read: Trump Launched A New Attack On Mueller Probe In Russia

“This get out of jail free card for families and groups who pose as families has spread,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The word of this has spread. The smugglers and traffickers know these loopholes better than our members of Congress. I’m sad to say that from October 2017 to this February, we have seen a staggering 315 percent increase in illegal aliens fraudulently using children to pose as family units to gain entry into this country. This must stop,” she said. (VOA)