Thousands Return to Afghanistan in Dire Need as IOM Expands Emergency Aid

Date Published: 
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

“It feels like I’ve been dropped from the sky back into Afghanistan. I came here with almost nothing, not even a pillow. I need land and a job and I need medical treatment.”  These are the words of Khargul, a 45-year-old widow, who crossed back into Afghanistan with her two young boys at the Spin Boldak border point this week after 10 years in Pakistan.

As of 26 November, a total of 236,724 undocumented Afghans like her and her sons have spontaneously returned or been deported from Pakistan through the Spin Boldak border in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, and the Torkham border in eastern Nangarhar province. This is more than double the number of returns from Pakistan in all of 2015.

In response, IOM has begun giving humanitarian aid to undocumented returnees like Khargul at Spin Boldak, in an expansion of the support IOM has provided to returnees at Torkham since 2012.

Undocumented returnees arriving at Spin Boldak border are now met by staff from IOM and the Afghan Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation at IOM’s reception centre on the border. Based on their needs and eligibility, they are then offered a range of services at IOM’s transit centre in Kandahar city.

Since IOM’s reception operation in Kandahar started on 14 November, over 1,500 spontaneous returnees and deportees have been provided with basic medical care, referral for additional treatment, assistance for those with special needs, temporary accommodation, household and kitchen supplies, hot meals and onward transportation to their final destination in Afghanistan.

Of the roughly 31,000 undocumented Afghans who have returned through Spin Boldak since the beginning of the year, nearly one third are deportees. Some were caught by the Pakistani authorities while trying to enter Iran through the country’s vast desert border with Pakistan.

“I was trying to go to Iran to find work to support my family,” said Sayed Hassan, a 22-year-old deportee currently staying at IOM’s transit centre in Kandahar. “The smuggler tricked us and stole our money. Then the police caught us and put us in jail for a month before we were deported. It was a terrible experience, and I would never wish it on another person.”

Beyond their immediate needs when they arrive at the border, many undocumented Afghans have lived outside Afghanistan for decades and will need help reintegrating in a country already challenged by widespread conflict and displacement.

The expanded aid programme is supported by the governments of Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

IOM has appealed for USD 21 million to provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable undocumented Afghans returning home from Pakistan before the end of 2016. The Appeal is currently only 50 percent funded.

“These people are massively vulnerable,” said Laurence Hart, IOM’s Special Envoy and Chief of Mission in Afghanistan. “They need help as soon as they cross the border, and will need it for a considerable time to come.”

For further information, please contact Matthew Graydon at IOM Afghanistan, Email mgraydon@iom.int, Tel +93 729 229 129.