Sharp Increase in Afghans Returning from Pakistan Raises Concerns

Date Published: 
Friday, February 6, 2015

IOM is responding to a sharp increase in the number of undocumented Afghans returning from Pakistan since the beginning of the year.

In January this year nearly 24,000 undocumented Afghans entered Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province through Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing. This was nearly 93 per cent of the total number of undocumented Afghans who returned through Torkham during all of 2014. Roughly 94 per cent of Afghans returning in recent weeks did so spontaneously, while the rest were deported.

Currently there are approximately three million Afghans living in Pakistan – one of the world’s largest, if not the largest, single host country of displaced persons. Of these, more than one million are estimated to be undocumented and lacking the legal protections afforded to documented refugees.

The Afghan government, IOM and its humanitarian partners are closely monitoring the return situation in Afghanistan. In coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, IOM has deployed additional field monitors to Torkham to interview returning families and further assess the situation.

IOM currently has the capacity to assist only 10 per cent of vulnerable spontaneously returning and deported Afghans at Torkham. Confirmed funding to assist returning Afghans is available until the end of February, and IOM is seeking further support from the international community as the number of returnees continues to grow.

Recent security incidents in Pakistan, particularly the tragic December 2014 attack on the school in Peshawar, have raised tensions in the country, with calls for mass deportations of undocumented Afghans from some sections of the population.

Although there have been no large-scale arrests, deportations or evictions, the substantial increase in returns reflect the concerns of undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan.

The majority of returning Afghan families are coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Kashmir provinces in Pakistan. Most of the families had lived in Pakistan for an average of 20 years.

IOM has been providing vulnerable, undocumented Afghans returning from Iran and Pakistan with immediate humanitarian post-arrival assistance since 2008. It assists nearly 35,000 vulnerable returnees at three of Afghanistan’s main border crossings every year.

For further information, please contact Matthew Graydon in Kabul (Tel: +93 794 100 546, mgraydon@iom.int)