News / Asia

In Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Reluctant to Return

In Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Reluctant to Returni
Ayaz Gul
June 21, 2014 10:45 PM
The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, together with the help of the United Nations, have recently stepped up efforts to repatriate tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. But political uncertainties about Afghanistan’s presidential elections have fueled long-term security and economic worries among the displaced, and many of them are now increasingly reluctant to return home. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
VIDEO: The governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, together with the help of the United Nations, have recently stepped up efforts to repatriate Afghan refugees in Pakistan. But political uncertainties about Afghanistan’s presidential elections have fueled long-term security and economic worries among the displaced. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
Ayaz Gul
In this informal refugee settlement on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital, more than 450 families from different parts of Afghanistan live under extremely difficult conditions. Having fled decades of conflict and persecution at home, they represent only a handful of the 1.6 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan facing economic hardships, health setbacks and a lack of education.

“The refugees have been here for a long time," said Maya Ameratunga of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Pakistan. "Many of them have been here for 30 years, many of them have been born in Pakistan.”

Ameratunga says UNHCR has been successfully running its voluntary repatriation program for Afghan refugees since 2002, but the remaining population is now increasingly reluctant to go back.    

With political uncertainties about Afghanistan’s presidential election only fueling long-term security and economic worries, many are resisting international efforts to repatriate them.

“So, far 3.8 million Afghans from Pakistan have already repatriated, including many people from here, so that same option is available to this refugee population. But I can understand that they want to wait until after the elections," she said. "They want to wait until after the international troops withdraw from Afghanistan and they want to see that there will be peace and stability in Afghanistan before they decide to go back.”

Shah Jamroze Khan, a longtime Afghan refugee, says although his country has seen a lot of positive changes and development since his family fled to Pakistan, he complains the Kabul government has paid almost no attention to the resettlement of Afghans. He is not very optimistic about the new political administration.

“Whatever [the new administration] do will only be known when they practically demonstrate it to benefit Afghans returning to their country," he said via translator. "If the refugees end up confronting the same hardships that they are facing in Pakistan, they would prefer not to go back to Afghanistan.”  

Speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai reiterated Kabul’s appreciation for Pakistan’s long-running “hospitality and generosity” to millions of Afghans.

“But it is time for us to go back, to go back to Afghanistan and to take part in the reconstruction and development of the new Afghanistan that has emerged over the past 13 years,” he said.

Pakistan has recently agreed to allow Afghan refugees to stay in the country until the end of 2015, citing its own economic and security challenges. 

But aid workers see Afghanistan's political turmoil as a major setback in the campaign to persuade Pakistan's 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees to return.

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Comment Sorting
by: Tariq Nadeem from: Pakistan
June 23, 2014 12:42 AM
These UN agencies constantly make excuses for these refugees and want to keep them in Pakistan, why dont they take these people to their own countries? they will never be able to do that because their own countries wont take it, but they always demand Pakistan keep them longer, I think its because they get high wages from UN and want to continue their lifestyle at the cost of Pakistans security and economic loss.

No more Afghans in Pakistan, who is this person who keeps extending their stay? No country in the world is this foolish for this long, so much crime has been caused by these Afghans, with kidnapping, drugs, weapons, every imaginable crime is committed by these people and on top of everything they are loyal to India and not Pakistan, this really pinches me. For Gods sake wake up and close down Hotel Pakistan.

by: zee from: islamabad
June 22, 2014 2:37 AM
I don't know who makes up these figures. I am sorry to say I am sick of burden of afghan refugees. They were only registered once in 1980 as 3 million. They have borne dozens of children and many dozens of grand children here. How come still the same? Number. 99% of so called unhcr repatriated people come back same evening or within next 3 days on a different route and only do the same drill when UN offer some money again. I have seen afghans settled in every corner of country, be it a hottest place like sakkhar khipro let alone AK and Gilgit skardu and Dir-chitral-swat Axis of colder areas. The only way to find them is census now. People can still identify otherwise well settled in normal community worth ownership rights and lands and warehouses for business factories and shipment business and also some are richest persons of respective mega cities. So some agency need to wake up and do more to count them in real please.

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