Safe Harbor Countries
It’s been a year since Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul fell to the Taliban after nearly two decades of U.S. occupation in the country – and the impact has been lasting.
The crisis forcibly displaced myriad Afghans from their homes, and many had to flee to other countries. Data shows the extent of this: Afghanistan was the biggest source of new asylum applications globally – with more than 125,000 total – in 2021, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. And displaced Afghans have faced difficult conditions even in safe harbor countries such as the United States.
Overall, there were nearly 3 million Afghan asylum-seekers and people considered refugees under the UNHCR mandate in other countries in 2021, according to data provided by the refugee agency to U.S. News. The top four host countries alone – most of which are located relatively near Afghanistan – welcomed close to 90% of the total. After the top nine, there were 156,995 hosted between 90 countries, the U.N. agency reports.
The U.S. ranked No. 22, with 2,861 Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers hosted in 2021, according to the U.N., though the U.S. State Department has said more than 74,000 Afghans overall have come to the country in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover. Most Afghans who came to the U.S. after the evacuation arrived through humanitarian parole, a process overseen by the Department of Homeland Security in which Afghan nationals are approved for admission to the U.S. on a case-by-case basis for a period of two years. That process is distinct and much faster than the one used by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which works with U.N.-qualified refugees.
Of note, the U.N. has specific definitions for “asylum-seeker” and “refugee.” An asylum-seeker can be a person who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not been determined, or for whom determination is impractical. Not every asylum-seeker ultimately will be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee was initially an asylum-seeker.
These 10 countries hosted the most Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers in 2021, according to the U.N. refugee agency.