Return of Undocumented Afghans from Pakistan and Iran - 2016 Overview
Decades of conflict and the search for better economic opportunities have pushed millions of Afghans into neighboring Pakistan and Iran.
While an estimated 2.5 million Afghans are registered refugees, a possibly equal number of Afghans live in Pakistan and Iran without legal refugee status. These undocumented Afghans face numerous protection challenges both in their host country and upon their return to Afghanistan either voluntarily (“spontaneous return”) or through deportation.
From 1 January to 31 December 2016, a total of 691,581 undocumented Afghans returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan (248,054) and Iran (443,527). This is a 4% overall increase from 2015, when a total of 663,295 undocumented Afghans returned from Pakistan and Iran. Compared with 2015, spontaneous returns increased by 14% (474,234 vs. 416,457) and deportations decreased by 12% (217,347 vs. 246,838).
However, despite the consistency in the overall total, return levels were significantly different between 2015 and 2016, with returns from Pakistan increasing by 108% (248,054 vs. 119,279) and returns from Iran decreasing by 18% (443,527 vs. 544,016). The large increase in returns from Pakistan can be attributed to a variety of push and pull factors that led to a sudden surge in returns in the latter half of 2016.
IOM’s Cross-Border Return and Reintegration (CBRR) programme provides vulnerable undocumented Afghans returning from Iran and Pakistan with immediate humanitarian post-arrival assistance at key border crossing points. This assistance includes basic household supplies, food, health care, temporary accommodation, referral services and transportation to the returnee’s final destination.
Through CBRR, IOM has been assisting returnees at Islam Qala border (Herat province) and Milak border (Nimroz province) with Iran since 2008, Torkham border with Pakistan in Nangarhar province since 2012 and Spin Boldak border with Pakistan in Kandahar province since 2016.
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