Afghans (in Pakistan, Iran)
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2002, millions of refugees have returned to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, approximately 3 million remain in exile, most of them in Iran and Pakistan. The majority of those remaining abroad have been displaced for more than 20 years, and about half of them were born in exile.
The mass flight of Afghans to neighbouring countries began in 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and led a bloody war against the local population, whose resistance was supported by Western governments. By 1990, about 6.2 million Afghans had fled their country as a result of the violence. While the USSR's withdrawal prompted about 900,000 refugees to return, fighting continued and in 1992, the mujahideen formed as a resistance movement against USSR domination captured Kabul and ended the communist era in the country. By 1997, almost 4 million refugees had returned. However, continuous fighting between different parties of the mujahideen and increasing military successes of the Taliban generated new refugees, many of whom were members of the urban educated elite and non-Pashtuns from the North, who feared persecution by the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. By 2001, there were about 3.6 million Afghan refugees, some of whom had been in exile for more than 20 years. The US-led war led to new displacement.
Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran hosts about 1,020,000 documented Afghan refugees, and another 702,000 registered Afghan refugees live in Pakistan. In their host countries, many face difficulties in obtaining work permits or accessing adequate housing. With the help of the largest UNHCR-assisted programme in almost 30 years, five million Afghan refugees have returned since 2002. However, a significant amount of returnees are expected to have moved back to their host countries after a temporary stay in Afghanistan. Due to concerns about security and socio-economic conditions in the country, the number of refugees choosing voluntary repatriation has declined significantly in recent years. Many of those who returned already faced subsequent internal displacement. As conditions are expected to remain difficult, voluntary repatriation is unlikely to constitute a sustainable solution for Afghan refugees in exile.
- Abbasi-Shavazi, M.J. and Glazebrook, D. (2006) 'Continued Protection, Sustainable Reintegration: Afghan Refugees and Migrants in Iran', Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU).
- Amnesty International (2002) 'Afghanistan: continuing need for protection and standards for return of Afghan refugees'.
- Amnesty International (2003) 'Afghanistan: out of sight, out of mind: the fate of the Afghan returnees'.
- Lowicki, J. (2002) 'Fending for themselves: Afghan refugee children and adolescents working in urban Pakistan', Women's Refugee Commission.
- Poppelwell, T. (2002) 'FMO research guide: Afghanistan'.
- Schmeidl, S. (2009) 'Repatriation to Afghanistan: Durable Solution or Responsibility Shifting?' Forced Migration Review, No. 33.
- FMO Resource Summary: Afghanistan.
- Turton, D. and Marsden, P. (2002) 'Taking Refugees for a Ride? The Politics of Refugee Return to Afghanistan', Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU).
- Giles, W. (2010) 'Livelihood and Afghan Refugee Workers in Iran', Barber, P. and Lem, W. (eds.) Class, Contention and a World in Motion (Oxford: Berghahn Press).
- Schmeidl, S. and Maley, W. (2007) 'The Case of the Afghan Population: Finding Durable Solutions in Contested Transitions', in Adelman, H. (ed.) Protracted Displacement in Asia: No Place to Call Home (Aldershot: Ashgate), pp. 131-180.