"Let me decide my fate" - Go and See visits for Afghan Refugees
Danish Refugee Council in Pakistan is introducing Go and See visits for Afghan refugees on whether to return to their home country or not based on fully informed decisions.
For Afghan refugees the possibility of returning home comes with a lot of concerns. Will it be safe? Will my home still be there? How will I make a living?
According to a recent survey by DRC Pakistan, 83 percent of Afghan refugees did not want to return to Afghanistan, but rather stay in Pakistan. Almost half revealed that they did not want to return to Afghanistan because there was lack of economic opportunities. Other reasons included: poor security (83 percent), lack of shelter (66 percent), lack of land (47 percent), and lack of basic services (27 percent).
For Zarmina, a female Afghan refugee and mother, proper education is a concern as well:
"We are putting up with this hot weather in Pakistan only for the education of our children; I am not convinced they will get the same quality of education back in our village Zernay in Afghanistan," Zarmina said.
The concerns of the Afghan refugees are often based on uncertainties. To give the them the chance to make an informed decision, DRC Pakistan has taken the initiative to create a protection tool called Go and See visits (GSV). This idea was implemented in 2012 with positive prospects of a safe and dignified return through informed decision-making regarding a durable solution e.g. voluntary repatriation, resettlement or local integration.
As a result of this positive impact in 2012, the initiative has been included in Pakistan’s 2013 Programs along with gender equality and women participation. DRC Pakistan together with Commissionerate for Afghan refugees and UNHCR -Pakistan invited a delegation of 20 Afghan refugees living in refugee villages Barakai and Baghecha Dheray in Pakistan to visit their pre-conflict homes villages-Zernay and Charbagh, district-Qarghai, Province-Laghman in Afghanistan. The visit was followed up by interviews, exchange of experience and information in a community debriefing, upon the refugees return to Pakistan.
The visit provided the opportunity for the Afghan refugee delegation to assess the community acceptance, infrastructure, health, education and livelihood opportunities and to re-establish links with their old community and former neighbors, exchange their views with relatives, village’s dwellers, friends, village’s elders, local authorities, the Department of refugees and DRC and UNHCR-Afghanistan representatives.
Even though it seems that the security situation in both villages is comparatively good, community acceptance was also an added point. However, the refugees were worried about shelter, infrastructure, health and education facilities. In case of mass repatriation small health facilities, basic health units and existing schools would not have the capacity to fulfill the needs.
Although the road maybe long, many still dream of returning.
“Though there are multiple problems in Afghanistan, I am still determined to go back to my home country if I am provided with shelter,” said Nasru, a young Afghan refugee.