Afghan refugees

Afghan refugees

Afghan refugees (known as "Muhajir Afghans" in South Asia) are people who fled Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and during the civil war that followed. Since the early 1980s, approximately 3 million Afghan refugees were settled in Pakistan and about two million in Iran. Many of them also made their way into the European Union, North America, Australia, India, Turkey, and other parts of the world.

After September 11, 2001, when the United States Military and NATO forces were preparing for war with the Taliban in Afghanistan, a further million or so Afghans fled their country to evade possible US-NATO bombardment. By the end of 2001, there were approximately 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which included the numbers who were born in that country during the past 20 years. At the same time there were about 2.4 million Afghans staying or living in Iran, which totaled to 7.4 million in both countries.

Since early 2002, more than 4.5 million Afghan refugees have been repatriated through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from both Pakistan and Iran back to their native country, Afghanistan. [Pajhwok Afghan News, [ "UNHCR hails Pakistan as an important partner (Nov. 3, 2007)"] ] As of late 2006, there were little less than 2.4 million Afghan refugees remaining in Pakistan and 920,000 in Iran. [UNHCR, October 10, 2006, [ "Tripartite meeting on returns to Afghanistan"] ]

In October 2007, Afghanistan's parliament, "in an open letter", urged the government of Iran to halt deportation of Afghan refugees until the winter ends. [ [ Iran urged to halt refugee return. - BBC News, 11 October 2007] ] The following month, in November 2007, UNHCR's country representative Salvatore Lombardo and UNAMA's press officer Dr. Nilab Mubarez announced a delay of the voluntary repatriation process of Afghan refugees from Pakistan due to the annual winter break. More than 350,000 refugees were repatriated from Pakistan in 2007, which leaves the remaining numbers in that country at about 2 million. [UNHCR, November 2, 2007, [ "Over 350,000 Afghans repatriate from Pakistan before winter"] ] The repatriation process took place between the first of March and 31st of October 2007, with each person receiving a travel package of about 100 US dollars.

Approximately 80% of the refugees who arrived from Pakistan were those that were living in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), 13% were from Balochistan, 3% from Sindh, and the remaining 4% from Punjab and Pakistan's capital city, Islamabad. The main provinces to where they returned in Afghanistan in 2007 were Nangarhar (57% returnees), Laghman (6.5%), Kabul (6%), Kandahar (4.4%), Kunduz and Ghazni (3.7% each). In 2006, Kabul was the top province for returnees, followed by Nangarhar, Kunduz, Logar and Paktia. [UNHCR, November 2, 2007, [ "Afghanistan: Winter break for voluntary returns from Pakistan"] ]

Unless their stay is extended due to further instability in Afghanistan, the remaining refugees are expected to leave Pakistan gradually before December 2009. [Pajhwok Afghan News, [ "Trilateral agreement on refugee repatriation extended (Aug. 2, 2007)"] ] Families that return to Afghanistan, on production of repatriation documents issued by the UNHCR, will be provided free plots by the Government of Afghanistan to build new homes. [Pajhwok Afghan News, [ "Returnees to be allotted plots: Helmand governor (Nov. 4, 2007)"] ]


ee also

*United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
*Demography of Pakistan
*Demography of Iran

External links

* [ UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency (Afghanistan)]
* [ In pictures: The Afghans who do not want to go to their homeland]

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