Conflict-Induced Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan - Interpretation of Data as of 31 May 2012

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This report on Conflict-Induced Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan is a collation of information on conflict-induced internal displacement as of 31 May 2012. This complements the monthly data updates produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Internal Displacement due to conflict. UNHCR plans to publish these reports at regular intervals, as the data on conflict induced Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) evolves with the changing context in the country.

In light of reports indicating an increased trend in conflict induced displacement, UNHCR conducted a review of displacement trends, concerns and figures of IDPs through its field offices. The initial outcomes indicated the need for updated data, in order to improve the operational planning and response mechanisms. A profiling/ data cleaning exercise was thus launched in late 2011, and was concluded on 31 May 2012.

Armed conflict and general insecurity have led to conflict-induced internal displacements across the country in the last 30 years. However, since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, a significant increase in internal displacement has been witnessed in the last few years. The Southern, Eastern and the Western regions are primarily affected and continue to produce the majority of conflict-induced internal displacement cases in Afghanistan. In recent years, the relatively less insecure Northern and Central regions have also recorded internal displacement due to the conflict.

Today, Afghan IDPs face a number of protection challenges due to decades of armed conflict, human rights violations, and general insecurity and tribal conflict, which continue to trigger flight from places of origin to areas of safety. Access to a significant majority of IDPs is beyond the reach of humanitarian organizations, as most of these displacements are within non-accessible and/ or remote areas.

Due to limited possibilities of speedy return and often linked with deteriorated conditions in displacement, IDP groups end up in prolonged displacement. Many of them also seek to move to other locations for livelihoods, thus leading to secondary displacement (and even tertiary displacement). This may include movement to urban areas, where IDPs are indistinguishable from the masses of urban poor. This report does not include an assessment of urban IDPs, nor of situations of secondary or tertiary displacement.

The last National Profile of Internal Displacement was undertaken in 2008, in relation to the recommendation made by the former Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, during his visit to Afghanistan in 2007.

The current exercise has determined that – as of end May 2012 - an estimated 396,808 persons/ 62,308 families across the country remain internally displaced due to reasons of conflict. A total of 32% of the reported conflict-induced IDPs originate from the South, while 23% are from the West followed by 24% from the East. The top 10 provinces of displacement are currently led by the South at 34%, followed by the East at 24% and West at 23%. The majority of the recorded IDP populations belong to the Pashtun ethnicity. A total of 36% of IDPs refer to armed conflict and 37% refer to general insecurity as the key causes of their displacement. A total of 12% cite internal tribal conflict, impact of cross border shelling, extortion, illegal-taxation and land disputes as causes of displacement.

The number of new conflict-induced IDPs has been rising steadily since 2009 and 80% of the total reported conflict-induced IDPs claim to have been displaced between June 2009 and May 2012. These figures are widely considered to be under-represented. The current data excludes those displaced in urban, semi-urban areas as well as those displaced in non-accessible insecure locations and does not track individual or household movements.

Following the conclusion of the data update and of the data cleaning exercise, it was found that the figure has been reduced by 125,350 IDPs. This change affected mostly the South, West and the North. This reduction is due to re-verification ('data cleaning') undertaken as part of the profiling exercise. This has shown the absence of particular IDP groups from their last recorded place of displacement. It is not known whether the earlier reported IDPs have returned to their places of origin or have gone into further secondary displacement to urban areas or elsewhere within the country.

The Profiling Report is thus a compilation of data collected by the IDP Task Forces (UNHCR and MoRR) since inception and is accompanied by a re-verification/ data clean up exercise to ascertain current IDP groups.