System in place for processing potential Afghan refugees — DoJ

MECHANISMS are in place for processing possible refugees from Afghanistan who may seek asylum in the Philippines, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Wednesday.

“If Afghan nationals do arrive in the Philippines and apply for permanent status as refugees, the DoJ (Department of Justice) Refugees and Stateless Persons unit will evaluate whether they meet the international standards for refugee status,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters Wednesday in a group message on Viber.

He explained that the Philippines has an “emergency transit mechanism” in place for refugees and other persons suffering from persecution in their home countries, in line with the country’s memorandum of agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Foreign media outlets have been reporting on how Afghans are desperately trying to leave their country in the wake of the takeover of the ultra-conservative Taliban earlier this week following the pullout of US troops.

Mr. Guevarra added that there is no specific limit of refugees who will be accepted in the Philippines, “neither is there a well-defined order of preference as to who will be granted refugee status.”

The Philippine government may also extend financial assistance to the refugees “as it could afford,” he said.

At the same time, local intelligence agencies will be tapped to assist in the screening of asylum seekers.

“If necessary, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) may be called upon to determine if the applicant poses a threat to national security,” the Justice chief said.

Some local extremist factions such as the Abu Sayyaf and Maute group have ties with the Islamic State, though this militant group is not known to have close affiliation with Afghanistan’s Taliban nor the al Qaeda. — Bianca Angelica D. Anago

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