Former Soviet forces entered Afghanistan on December 1, 1979. Many forces in and out of Afghanistan opposed the intervention and started armed struggle against Soviet occupation. Armed struggle and the invasion resulted in mass migration of Afghan’s to neighboring countries including Pakistan. The number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan reached 2 million by year the 1984. They started living in different parts of Pakistan in camps mainly at Khyber PakhtoonKhwa (KP) (Former NWFP) and Balochistan. The situation kept escalating until the Soviet Union remained present in Afghanistan and the refugee numbers increased to 4 million in Pakistan.
When Soviet Union retreated from Afghanistan in 1989, some refugees returned to Afghanistan but as the situation remained tense inAfghanistan and a large number of refugees returning to Pakistan during this time.
1.5 million of Afghan refugees are still residing in Pakistan, who are not ready to go back Afghanistan. Living for three decades in Pakistan the refugees have no intentions of repatriating to Afghanistan. Pushed by the high level of resentment among Pakistani people against the Afghan refugees, the Government of Pakistan wants their immediate repatriation.
While working with UNHCR funded voluntary repatriation project, in Kohat, Pakistan, I observed some factors impeding repatriation of Afghan refugees, through Focused Group Discussions (FGD’s) and individual household interviews. These factors are both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Factors in Afghanistan:
Following are some of the factors in Afghanistan which affects the repatriation process of Afghan Refugees.
- Lack of peace and stability in Afghanistan.
- Bad law and order situation in Afghanistan.
- Violation of Human rights.
- Lack of economic opportunities.
- Refugees have enmities back in Afghanistan.
- No land /property in Afghanistan.
- Damaged houses.
- Presence of allied forces
- Lack of job opportunities.
- Lack of social services.
- New culture in Afghanistan especially for the generation born and brought up in Pakistan.
Factors in Pakistan:
Below are some of the factors affecting repatriation process of Afghan refugees.
- Better economic conditions.
- Most of the refuges have established businesses in Pakistan.
- Better social services as compared to Afghanistan.
- Better Educational opportunities than Afghanistan.
- Employment opportunities.
- The new generation grown in Pakistan has adopted Pakistani life style which does not exist in Afghanistan.
- Refugees consider themselves more the part of Pakistani culture.