Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 11th, 2017

Future of Afghan Refugees

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Future of Afghan Refugees

According to the U.N. refugee agency, in the first week of 2017, 1,643 unregistered Afghans chose to return or were deported from Pakistan, and 7,776 returned from Iran, according to the IOM, with more expected as the weather improves in the next two months.
Another half a million undocumented Afghans are expected to be repatriated from Pakistan by the end of 2017. Numbers of returnees have been steadily rising over the past two years, with no letup in sight.
The political and security situation in Afghanistan has always forced so many Afghans to leave their land and move to other countries to find refuge. There are many Afghans living in the neighboring countries because of the civil wars and severe social and economic conditions in the last 3 decades or so. Pakistan and Iran are two prominent countries where most of the Afghans have moved and are finding ways to survive there. Though the end of Taliban regime and the developments being made in the country have convinced several to return to their country, yet many still remain dubious about their future in Afghanistan and therefore have opted to live away from their homeland. Definitely, the life for Afghan people has been very difficult in their own country but the life as refugees has not been a bed of roses. They have had different problems and will keep on facing them unless measures are taken to curb them. Moreover, if they return to their country, again a pile of problems would be waiting for them. No doubt, Afghanistan has been able to develop, yet the country has not been self sufficient to give better opportunities of contended and blissful life to its people.
Most of the Afghan refugees started moving to other countries in the region and throughout the world after the Soviet invasion of 1979 and an interminable civil war that followed. About 3.3 million Afghan refugees moved to Pakistan by 1988, most of whom were kept in Peshawar and the rest were somehow settled in other parts of Khyber Pahkthnkhwa. Moreover, after the incident of 9/11, when International forces engaged in war in Afghanistan, many refugees fearing the situation moved to Pakistan. According to calculations, there were about 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan by the end of 2001. Since, 2002, Afghan refugees have been assisted in returning to their country from other countries and from Pakistan. In 2006, Pakistani government started registration of Afghan refugees so as to figure out the correct number of refugees and provided them ID cards, as well. In February, 2007, the total number of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan was about 2.15 million. Currently, there are more than a million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
The Soviet invasion compelled many Afghan refugees to move to Iran, as well. Nearly about 2 million Afghan refugees were living in Iran by 1988. Though Iran welcomed warmly the Afghan refugees, better living opportunities for them remained very much limited throughout the country. They have been struggling much even for their basic rights. Currently, nearly 900,000 Afghan refugees live in Iran.
There are other countries as well to which Afghan refugees moved during crucial situations in their country. Reports suggest that there are Afghans who have moved to North America, the European Union, Australia and other parts of the world. Moreover, several thousand Afghan refugees moved to India, as well. There are some among these refugees, who have been able to find better opportunities of living their lives, but there are many who are not able to have better living standards and they yearn to return to their own homeland.
If the situation in Afghanistan gets better, there are possibilities that many of them return to their own land and they have been doing that for the last few year, but unfortunately, the situation at the moment seems to be moving towards deterioration once again as Afghanistan is going through terrorists attacks. People at the moment do not seem to be confident enough to return to the country, but they will definitely do so, if the security situation and stable social, political and economic conditions are provided.
Provincial head of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Quetta, Pakistan, Dinesh Shrestha announced that there are more than 37,000 Afghan refugees who had left for Afghanistan last year and at least 15,000 registered Afghan migrants had already left for Afghanistan. he said Afghan refugees migrated to areas of Afghanistan where peace has been restored, however, it is difficult to dispatch all Afghan refugees in a year because Iran is also sending Afghan migrants and in Afghanistan, there are number of homeless people due to which difficulties of the people will further complicate.
It is really good sign that the Afghan refugees are returning to their homeland, yet the concerns about their compensation are really serious. Meanwhile, it is also reported that the Pakistani federal government has yet to formalise its repatriation policy for Afghan refugees. However, numbers that emerged after setting up a border management system at Torkham have not only baffled officials in Khyber-Paktunkhwa but have also brought into question the entire policy. From June to October, 678,845 Afghan refugees left K-P through the Torkham border. Of these people, only 287,763 were repatriated through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) voluntary repatriation centres (VRCs).
Return of the refugees in the urban areas like Kabul can be settled at the moment, but it would be difficult in the long run. Moreover, it would be really a challenging task to compensate the ones who return to remote areas.
Now that Afghan refugees are returning or they may be returning in the times to come, there is great problem of their resettlement in the country. Many of them have been living for almost some decades in the other countries and there are several who were born there. Now, once they come back their adjustment would be really very challenging.

Moreover, Afghanistan does not stand on its own as far as the economic stability and security are concerned. Therefore, a lot more assistance would be needed from the regional powers and international community to help them settle in their own country as they have been through many difficulties in their lives as refugees.  

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at email.urya@gmail.com

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