South Africa said Wednesday that it is “not in a position” to host Afghan refugees who fled the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15.
“The South African government is unfortunately unable to meet such a request,” the South African Department of Foreign Affairs (DIRCO) said in a statement. The country has been asked to temporarily host Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan before they reach a final destination, the department said.
“South Africa is already hosting a substantial number of refugees and is responsible for meeting their needs. Most of them are already receiving social assistance and free medical care,” it said.
South Africa, the continent’s largest industrial power, hosts millions of migrants. “In terms of international law, the welfare of refugees is best ensured by staying in the first country of arrival – Pakistan – before reaching a final destination,” the ministry said.
The Taliban celebrated their victory in Afghanistan on Tuesday after the departure of the last American soldiers, which ended a devastating 20-year war triggered by the intervention of an international coalition led by the United States to oust the Taliban from power in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on American soil.
The return of the Islamists to power forced Westerners to evacuate their nationals and Afghans likely to suffer reprisals from the Taliban, particularly for having worked for foreign forces, in a hurry from Kabul airport.