RI undertook a rapid, multi-sector needs assessment from 30 January 2017 to 4 February 2017 in four Districts in Nangarhar Province (Batikot, Kuzkunar, Muhmand Dara and Rodat) and four Districts in Kunar Province (Chawkay, Dara-e-Pech, Shigal Wa Sheltan and Watapur). Districts were selected due to the high level of needs and high number of Refugee Returnees. RI’s assessment took place in 80 villages of different sizes, with the smallest village consisting of 20 households (HHs) and the largest consisting of 2800 HHs. The assessment was conducted by RI East Regional staff, organised in different teams. Both male and female staff contributed to the assessment.
The objective of the assessment was to deepen the understanding of return dynamics, together with collecting information on levels and types of needs and resources available to the communities and the vulnerabilities of both returnees and host communities (HC).
The assessment was conducted by a team of RI Eastern region staff, who contributed to the assessment after participating in a one-day training workshop in data collection tools and techniques. This training included the provision and deployment of:
Household surveys (HH)
Focus Group Discussions (FGDs)
Key Informant Interviews (KIIs)
A total of 315 HHs surveys were conducted (mostly Returnee HHs returned in 2016), together with 145 FGDs (Returnees) and 47 KIIs (mainly HC village elders and CDCs consultations). Regional and gender composition can be observed in Fig. 1 below.
The assessment covered a considerable geographic area in order to have comparable data from different communities and to understand similarities and differences. Although helpful to gather main trends, issues, inputs and feedback, as well as to provide understanding of challenges Returnees and HC are facing, the sample considered for this research is not statistically significant; when percentages are mentioned, they are intended as percentages of the sample studies, not as percentages of the Districts targeted.
The second half of 2016 saw a substantial surge in the numbers of returnees from Pakistan compared to the previous year. From January to December, almost 400,000 Refugee Returnees and 250,000 Undocumented Returnees crossed the border and relocated to the Eastern Region of Afghanistan. In 2017, these numbers are expected to continue growing, with an estimated 550,000 refugee returnees (UNHCR, projections) and 495,000 undocumented returnees (IOM, projections) expected to cross the Eastern border into Afghanistan.
The surge in numbers is largely due to diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, intensified in the last few months of 2016 as a result of the partnership between the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) and the Government of India (GoI); with the response of the Government of Pakistan (GoP) that they will not renew residency permits for Afghan nationals regularly registered in Pakistan and threatening deportations. A wave of resentment against Afghan nationals followed the announcement and resulted in violence and threats both from the community members and the police, along with widespread harassment of Afghan nationals (according to the survey conducted by RI, see Annex 4) . This hostile environment in Pakistan combined with the announced change in the refugee regulations has had a considerable push effect, resulting in thousands of families moving back to Afghanistan.
Due to the aggression suffered in Pakistan, returnees were often hurried and the decision to leave was made with insufficient available information, mostly motivated by insecurity, or forced. Families had to sell their assets in Pakistan, often at a portion of their value, due to their diminished negotiation power. This factor, together with the cost of the travel to Afghanistan, has meant that refugee returnees and undocumented returnees have arrived to Afghanistan with reduced coping capacity compared to the pre-return period.
Returnees were supported to some extent at the Zero point (at the border), often receiving different assistance packages depending on status. Returnee families moved from Zero point to Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman, going through reception centres (IOM) and encashment centres (UNHCR), depending on their status, before continuing toward a destination for attempted resettlement.
Kunar and Nangarhar are the two of the provinces most impacted by conflict and the largest recipients of returnees, both Refugee Returnees and Undocumented Returnees.
In the villages surveyed in Kuz Kunar (Nangarhar), Refugee Returnees households represent 22% of the total in the District.