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Racing for the Exits

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
February 28, 2012
Foreign Policy


More Afghans are seeking asylum now than at any time since war in Afghanistan began, figures from the United Nations show. Last year more than 30,000 Afghans sought asylum worldwide, topping 2010's numbers by 25 percent - and those are just the recorded cases. More than 45,000 Afghans are said to have illegally escaped into Greece alone. Australia is another popular destination for asylum, though it is harder to pull off due to distance.

The current protests in reaction to news of the burnings of Korans at Bagram only underline to many Afghans just how quickly security can unravel and just how much uncertainty Afghans face in the future.

There is a race for the exits in Afghanistan, all right, and it is not just the internationals running for the door.

Uncertainty about the future dominates conversations among families, on the streets and in the news. As discussion of withdrawal deadlines and peace talks dominates local headlines precious few facts have surfaced about what these developments actually mean -- and for whom. Into this vacuum fear and rumor have moved in.

"Businessmen, traders have heard that in 2014 foreigners are going to leave Afghanistan, so most of the people are trying to leave Afghanistan," says Muhammad, an Afghan who left his country only for a short stint during the Taliban years. "People don't have trust in this government; they think maybe after 2014 the Afghan government will not be able to control the security of Afghanistan."

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