The Philippines will open its doors to Afghans fleeing Taliban rule, said Malacañang on Tuesday, August 17.
President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, Secretary Harry Roque, said this is in line with the country's long history of taking in asylum seekers, starting from World War I.
"The Philippines will not hesitate to admit individuals fleeing their homelands because of fear of persecution. So asylum seekers are welcome in the Philippines," said Roque during his regular Malacañang press briefing.
Roque recalled how the Philippines, in 1922, accepted some 800 Russians who were fleeing from the Socialist Revolution. In World War II, European Jews also found safe haven in the Philippines amid Nazi rule. A monument in Israel's Holocaust Memorial Park honors the Philippines and president Manuel Quezon for this.
"Since time immemorial, the Philippines has had jurisprudence even before the Convention on Refugees welcoming asylum seekers," said Roque.
However, he would leave it to the Department of Foreign Affairs to respond to questions on whether or not the Philippines would recognize a Taliban-led government.
On Wednesday, August 18, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra provided details on the process of accepting Afghan refugees. The Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit is under the Department of Justice (DOJ).
He said there is no quota, nor is there a "well-defined order of preference" on who would be taken in as refugees.
"If their status as refugees is recognized by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and they need temporary shelter in the Philippines, we have an emergency transit mechanism," Guevarra said in a message to reporters on Wednesday.
"If Afghan nationals do arrive in the Philippines and apply for permanent status as refugees, the DOJ will evaluate whether they meet the international standards for refugee status," said Guevarra.
He added that the "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."
"Upon determination and grant of refugee status by the DOJ, the Bureau of Immigration will implement the decision and issue the appropriate documentation to the applicant," Guevarra said.
Scenes of chaos and fear have played out in Afghanistan ever since Taliban forces took control following the departure of American forces and its own president.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.