Afghanistan crisis: Switzerland strengthens its commitment

A few weeks after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, in late October 2021 a SEM delegation led by Deputy Director Vincenzo Mascioli visited Pakistan and Iran to get an idea of the current refugee situation on the ground. In view of the latest developments in Afghanistan, Switzerland is increasing its assistance in the region.

1 Fluechtlingssettlement in Islamabad Pakistan
Refugee settlement in Islamabad, Pakistan
2 Treffen mit dem Sekretaer des Staatsministeriums fuer Staaten und Grenzregionen Mr Pervez Junejo
Meeting with the Secretary of the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Mr Pervez Junejo)
3 Treffen mit der pakistanischen NGO SHARP Society for Human Rights and Prisoners Aid die vom SEM unterstuetzt wird
Meeting with the Pakistani NGO SHARP (Society for Human Rights and Prisoners Aid), which is supported by SEM
4 Treffen mit Hauptkommissar fuer afghanische Fluechtlinge Mr Saleem Khan
Meeting with the Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees (Mr Saleem Khan)
5 Treffen mit UNHCR in Islamabad Pakistan
Meeting with UNHCR in Islamabad, Pakistan
6 Migrationsdialog Schweiz Iran in Teheran
Migration dialogue Switzerland - Iran, in Tehran
7 Fluechtlingssettlement in der Grenzprovinz Khorasan Razavi Iran
Refugee settlement in the border province of Khorasan Razavi, Iran
8 Treffen mit UNHCR und Austausch mit afghanischen Fluechtlingen in Teheran Iran
Meeting with UNHCR and talking to Afghan refugees in Tehran, Iran
9 Mobile Unterbringungshaeuser fuer neuankommende afghanische Fluechtlinge im Rahmen der Notfallplanung Iran
Mobile accommodation for newly arrived Afghan refugees as part of emergency planning, Iran
Talking to doctors in a reception facility near the Iranian-Afghan border, Khorasan Razavi border province, Iran

The situation in Afghanistan has steadily deteriorated since the Taliban took power in 2021. The consequences for the Afghan population are also being felt by the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran. Against the backdrop of the refugee situation in the region and current developments in Afghanistan, the SEM delegation’s meetings with representatives of state authorities and of the UN and non-governmental organisations in Islamabad, Tehran and in the border region in eastern Iran were of particular importance. The aim was to look at how Swiss involvement in the region can now be expanded in a targeted manner.

Providing protection locally

In Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran, Switzerland's current priority is to provide assistance locally, namely to protect and care for internally displaced persons in Afghanistan and for Afghan nationals seeking protection in neighbouring countries. Switzerland is working closely with international organisations to provide such assistance.

In view of the developments since August 2021, Switzerland has increased its support and approved an additional SDC contribution of CHF 33 million to provide assistance locally. This brings Switzerland’s funding for people in need in Afghanistan and the region to around CHF 60 million until the end of 2022. SEM is also increasing its involvement in the region. Since the end of 2021, it has been supporting a programme run by UN Women in Afghanistan, which is aimed at internally displaced Afghan women and girls. For 2022, funds have been earmarked for activities in Afghanistan and the neighbouring states of Pakistan and Iran.

Further financial support available

In addition to the migration-related programmes and projects of the various federal agencies, part of the SDC budget is now earmarked to allow for a more flexible response to migration policy challenges. SEM uses these flexible funds together with the SDC. For example, some have already been used to launch the wide-ranging project Supporting education and livelihood activities for Afghan refugees in Pakistan along with UNHCR Pakistan. The flexible funds are also to be used for projects in Iran going forward.