New Delhi, Aug 7: Thousands of Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers in India live in fear and uncertainty as the Taliban intensified their attacks on Afghan government forces and seize more territory in the war-torn country, DW reported.
Many Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers live in various neighbourhoods in Delhi, and they run restaurants, bakeries and confectionary shops, among others.
Hundreds of Afghan families have made the neighbourhood of Khirki Extension their home over the past few years, after fleeing Afghanistan due to security concerns, the report said.
But the latest reports of the Taliban advance have left them scared and worried about their relatives back home.
For most Afghans residing in India, the ultimate goal is to resettle in the US or Europe, where they believe there are greater economic opportunities. But given the COVID pandemic, many countries have closed their doors to travel and migration.
“I know my chances of going back to my homeland are dashed completely. All I wish is that my friends and relatives are safe,” Rosana, a student, told DW.
“It looks scary when we hear such news. I think of my parents who are still there in Panjshir Valley in northeastern Afghanistan. Though it is safe there at the moment, I do not want to watch history repeat itself,” Naseem told DW.
He arrived in Delhi three years ago and was hoping that he could also bring in his parents, which, however, is not possible under the current circumstances.
Thousands of Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers, a majority of them belonging to either the Hindu or Sikh faiths that are religious minorities in Afghanistan, have made India their home over the past decade.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2019, there were approximately 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered in India. And Afghans were the second-largest community, comprising 27 per cent of them.
“We fled our war-torn country in search of safety and a better life. In spite of the struggles that come with abandoning our lives and homes, many of us have found small jobs or even opened businesses of own own,” Adila Bhashir, who works for a travel agency, told DW.
“But there is no security and there is no telling what can happen tomorrow,” she added.
Over the past few weeks, the insurgents have gained control of at least eight of 14 customs posts along Afghanistan’s borders with Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan.
Reports that the Taliban have taken over 12 districts in Helmand, one of the largest provinces in the south of the country, have some worried.
“We hear reports that the Taliban are imposing harsh restrictions on women in the districts they captured and are even setting fire to schools. It is troubling and a flashback to the bad times,” Wajmah Abdul, a pharmaceutical worker, told DW.
Abdul moved with her brother, Bashir, to Delhi in 2014, but her aunt and uncle still live in Afghanistan.
“I cannot stop worrying about them and the telephone lines have been down for such a long time now. These are very hard times,” said Abdul.
The fighting has also forced many people to flee their homes and around 300,000 Afghans have been displaced since the start of the year.
“Many of the men in my village have been killed by the Taliban, and several are missing. The way the Taliban are advancing is very frightening and I feel completely helpless,” Idris Hasan, a grocery store dealer in Delhi, who originally comes from Mazar-i-Sharif, told DW.
“I have no way of knowing what’s happening on the ground and I don’t know what to believe. I am constantly living in fear,” Hasan said.