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HomeGlobalFear of violence and economic collapse spur Afghan exodus

Fear of violence and economic collapse spur Afghan exodus

A young man sells a rooster in a market in Kabul, crowded with visitors this Sunday. / AFP

Thousands of people defy the threat of ISIS and queue to request their passports as barter markets multiply due to the lack of liquidity in banks

Afghanistan is reissuing passports, although leaving the country remains an extremely risky endeavor. The processing centers, especially the one in Kabul, have become a target of the Islamic State and accentuated the feeling of terror and collapse in a population that faces the severity of the regime, the debacle of the banking system and hunger, until the To the point that right now it sustains its survival on bartering and the help of the World Food Program and other organizations.

After the reopening of the passport offices on the 18th, hundreds of people queue daily waiting for their documents. Many arrive at dawn. They do not want to return home empty after a full day at the gates of the centers. But four days have been enough to destroy one of the few elements of incipient administrative normality – and also hope – that Afghanistan has offered since the final end of the Taliban invasion in August. A kamikaze tried on Thursday to attack the applicants in the middle of the street, although he was killed by local security forces before detonating the bomb attached to his body.

The attack was directed against the Taliban and relatives of regime officials who had that day reserved for requesting passports. The Ministry of the Interior recognizes that the alarms have gone off and the Police have been forced to reinforce security. The agents even disperse citizens when they huddle in front of the offices, aware of the massacre perpetrated by the local branch of the IS in August against a crowd trying to access the airport in the aftermath of the foreign evacuation. More than 140 people died in an attack practically identical to the one the terrorists wanted to carry out this week.

The crowds in search of the passport have become a symbol of the new Afghan exodus. Haunted by an economic crisis that worsens for days and the fear of violence, numerous families, high-ranking officials and technocrats try to get hold of the documents that allow them to leave the country. Other citizens yearn for leave so they can visit relatives abroad, access medical treatment, or try to regain business relationships.

A Taliban watches a queue of passport applicants. /


But possibly the largest group that wants to leave their land behind is made up of the tens of thousands of Afghans who have collaborated with Allied troops over the last twenty years as interpreters, conductors or suppliers of supplies. The hasty withdrawal of the US Army and other international forces and the rapid advance of the Taliban reconquest left a large number of collaborators trapped in the suburbs of Kabul and other cities far from the capital. The number of visa applicants in the United States exceeds 60,000 people and the American authorities trust that the regime will facilitate their departure from the country, even under the threatening shadow of reprisals. The White House has reported that half of that group has already passed State Department investigations and could be evacuated without further obstacles.

Women’s wages

International analysts agree that fear is one of the driving forces behind passport applicants, but the lack of economic expectations is just as important as that. January is a key month. The UN and the IMF consider that the country is facing a general collapse of its economy this coming beginning of the year. The funds that the previous Afghan government had deposited abroad, about 7.9 billion euros, continue to be blocked, the international aid that supported the system -Afghanistan is a fully ‘subsidized’-state – are coming in at a drop and the regime has stopped paying the salary to civil servants.


  • 60,000
    Afghans with visas, former collaborators of the United States troops, are still awaiting the opportunity to leave their country.

As if that were not enough, the same Taliban laws regarding women are exacerbating the crisis. Until now, female workers contributed around 700 million euros per year to the system and helped feed the consumer sector, which has disappeared with the ban on women from having a job – approximately 20% of female employees have been kept- . On the other hand, citizens are allowed to withdraw a minimum daily amount from their accounts, but even that ends since banks suffer from a brutal lack of liquidity. Millions of Afghans can no longer obtain cash, which has multiplied barter markets, where families exchange their meager properties – from tableware to toys – for food or other essentials. “It is already a matter of sheer survival,” the sellers acknowledge.

The sacks of food that the international programs regularly bring – heavily guarded by the Taliban – are the only resource, not only in the most marginal regions but in the capital itself. The UN warned on the eve of Christmas Eve that the country is on the verge of a “humanitarian catastrophe” and estimates that a million children could die in the first months of 2022, a year that appears to be anything but happy in this corner so far from Bethlehem as from the West.


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