Taliban terms migrants 'martyrs', but they are fleeing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world

According to UN statements yesterday, Afghanistan's humanitarian needs exceed those of Syria and Turkey after the earthquakes. The Taliban urge people not to use illegal migration channels, but there are 28 million (out of a population of 42 million) people in need of assistance.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "With great sadness, we have learned that 80 Afghan refugees, including women and children, who were travelling from Turkey to Italy on a wooden boat, drowned in the sea in southern Italy," the Taliban Foreign Ministry said after the failure to rescue a group of migrants who left Smyrna resulted in dozens of deaths at sea near Crotone, southern Italy.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan prays for the forgiveness of the martyrs and for the suffering of the families and relatives of the victims, once again urging all citizens not to travel abroad through irregular migration," it added.

There are many questions to be asked as to what 'martyrdom' the Taliban speak of by referring to those fleeing from the country they have ruled for a year and a half now. After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and the reconquest of the country, the living conditions of the population have dramatically deteriorated.

According to Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy UN special representative and humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, at a press conference yesterday, some 700,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 18 months.

In the same period, the gross domestic product (GDP) has decreased by 35%, while food costs have increased by 30%.

At least 28 million (including more than 15 million children out of a population of less than 42 million) are dependent on humanitarian aid and 'Afghanistan remains the world's biggest humanitarian crisis in 2023, despite, of course, the recent devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria,' Alakbarov said, adding that 75 per cent of Afghan households' income is spent on food. 

UN agencies have stated that they need at least USD 4.6 billion to deal with the humanitarian situation. It is also estimated that at least USD 18.3 million will be needed in 2023 for mine clearance and explosive ordnance disposal: after decades of conflict, Afghanistan is in fact one of the countries with the highest rate of explosive ordnance contamination in the world, and it is estimated that about 15% of the population has some form of disability due to mines, poverty and lack of access to basic services.

With regard to the restrictions on women, there have been 'no encouraging developments' in education, Alakbarov continued, adding that the Taliban have made some exceptions to women's participation in certain sectors, such as healthcare.

Over the past four months, the Taliban authorities have also interfered in the distribution of aid to the population: 'Most of the access problems, and what is leading to the temporary suspension of humanitarian programmes in recent times, is related to the directives against Afghan women working for national and international NGOs,' explained the deputy special representative. "It is not related to security issues and we continue to enjoy good physical access throughout the country," he added.