Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles Airport in Virginia

UNHCR says half a million more may flee Afghanistan

GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency is gearing up for as many as half a million people or more to flee from Afghanistan in a “worst-case scenario” in the coming months.

UNHCR says the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last week “remains uncertain and may evolve rapidly,” with up to 515,000 new refugees fleeing.

The agency said that would add to the 2.2 million Afghans who already are registered as refugees abroad — nearly all of them in Pakistan and Iran.

“The upsurge of violence across the country and the fall of the elected government may have a serious impact on civilians and cause further displacement,” the plan said.

The agency cited estimates that 558,000 people have been internally displaced within Afghanistan due to armed conflict this year alone – four in five of them women and children. “UNHCR estimates that the number of displaced will rise, both internally and across border,” it said.

Najeeba Wazedafost, CEO of the Asia Pacific Refugee Network, in an online UNHCR news conference on Friday, warned of “coming darkness” in Afghanistan amid a “tragically intertwined series of crises.”

The U.N. agency is seeking nearly $300 million for its response plan for inter-agency requirements.