Afghans seeking to flee abroad face escalating risks as the domestic situation deteriorates, the United Nations refugee agency said on Wednesday in a plea to neighboring countries, including Iran, to open their borders even to those without documentation.
Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan have deported increasing numbers of Afghans since August, following the Taliban takeover, it said.
The UNHCR called for a halt to deportations saying Afghans may face persecution in their homeland where religious and ethnic minorities and activists have been targeted.
"UNHCR urges all countries receiving Afghan new arrivals to keep their borders open to those in need of international protection," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that a program to pay $300 million a year in cash to Afghan families with children, elderly or people with disabilities is the best way to target increasing poverty.
In what the UN Development Program (UNDP) described as an "alarming" socio-economic outlook for Afghanistan for the next 13 months, it also pushed a $100 million "cash for work" project to boost employment and $90 million in small business payments.
"This will be probably the best shot at halting this massive collapse into near universal poverty," UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja, told Reuters.
As Afghanistan struggles with a sharp drop in international development aid after the Taliban seized power in mid-August, an economy and banking system on the brink of collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic and severe drought, UNDP has projected that poverty may become nearly universal by mid 2022 - affecting more than 90 percent of the country's 39 million people.