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Repatriation of Afghan Refugees Impeding Afghan Economy

Farooq Azeem

Resolving the issue of repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan could play a significant role in fostering the bilateral relations between the two countries. There are no doubts that Pakistan has remained quite generous in offering her land and facilitations to Afghan brethren, while sharing her meager resources with the Afghan refugees. Afghans are said to be the third largest refugee group worldwide, and even though the largest numbers of returns come from Pakistan and Iran, an increasing number are being repatriated from Europe. It was reported that during the first ten months of 2015, Pakistan deported 20,000 undocumented Afghan refugees and reported nearly 96,000 spontaneous returns of undocumented refugees. In the same period, Iran deported nearly 200,000 undocumented Afghan refugees. Lack of access to land, essential services, and income earning opportunities and exposure to violent conflict means that returnees often become displaced internally, joining the close to one million current internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Reportedly, Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran returning home could increase in numbers, but many of these returns are said to be involuntary or spontaneous. As a result, experts believe that superfluous strain is being placed on Afghan government in service stipulation and the communities in which returnees settle inhibiting development progress and exacerbating instability. However, the circumstances faced upon returning home are also pouring the increasing flow of refugees into Europe and other regions. Worldwide, Afghans form one of the largest refugee groups and represent one of the largest repatriation situations. Although Pakistan has not acceded to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, presently, it hosts approximately 1 million registered and 1.5 million unregistered refugees, Iran hosts 951,140 registered Afghan refugees.
Experts opine that the Afghan refugees on their repatriation to Afghanistan could cast positive impacts on the overall economy of Afghanistan, as the crucial role of economy for the stability and prosperity of Afghanistan is undoubtedly a main pillar of progress to offer peace , prosperity and destiny to the country. Experts have emphasized that the Afghan government needs to readdress all the facets of her political, social, economic, diplomatic, justice and electoral processes for the overall betterment of the country. Addressing the issue of Afghan Refugees by the Afghan government would also influence and test her capability and capacity to deal with the most neglected matter.
Despite the apparent Afghan government’s resolve to strengthen interventions on behalf of returnees and to end the protracted situation of Afghans in exile, given the country’s deteriorating security situation and dire state of the economy, Afghanistan needs to be fully prepared to continue receiving large influxes of returnees as their nationals world over and especially in Pakistan are becoming a major security concern. As the recent Mardan attacks and all the previous brutal attacks were confirmed planned and executed under the directions and control of the people living on Afghan soil. The international community is keenly observing the proclaimed resolve of the Afghan government against Terrorism. Afghanistan is expected to abide by her commitments and all the mutually agreed matters with Pakistan.
Considering the tougher actions against Afghan refugees , Germany has recently announced a stiffer refugee policy that would return the majority of Afghan refugees-the second largest refugee group entering Europe after Syrians. The Afghan government must coordinate with the concerning countries to take practical steps to resolve and rehabilitate the Afghan refugees with offering a respectful and sustainable arrangements of rehabilitation. Earlier Pakistan government had given ample time by extending the expiry dates to account for the difficulties of each category of Afghans living in Pakistan for decades with out any discrimination. It was estimated by government that due to the nature of spontaneous returns, in which the host states had been observed not giving returnees adequate time to assess locations for their return, identify shelter and services, and take care of asset transfers or make arrangements with relatives. Experts are of the opinion that returnees are exposed to higher risks of violent conflict. Lack of information and social connections in the places to which they return add to their vulnerability. Other returnees become internally displaced as a result of insecurity in their areas of origin. it is a matter of deep concern that, places where the government is largely absent, young male returnees are particularly at risk for recruitment into violent extremist groups and criminal networks. Their high visibility in rural areas, social isolation, and lack of legitimate income opportunities make them easy targets for recruitment by competing violent extremist groups, such as the Daesh due to the higher financial incentives they provide. Dedicated coordination among relevant Afghan government ministries needs to be matched with stronger coordination and dedicated programs by other regional and extra regional countries, besides engaging the international humanitarian and development actors to augment the over all efforts of peace and prosperity in the region and beyond.

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