In Nangrahar, many refugees have begun to make their home. In 2016, over 600,000 came from Pakistan, returning to the country from which they came. This comes from a report by the International Organization for Migration. (IOM)
2017 should see similar or increased rates as Pakistan becomes more hostile and the Afghan government stabilizes.
The large number of people poses a number of different challenges to the new state. Together with international organizations, they hope to make the process of rehoming effective.
“Respect for human rights, finding service needs and helping local governments are the highest priority” said Farhad Azima. He serves on the board at the American University of Afghanistan.
The University promotes education as the way to lift people from poverty. With the influx of refugees, new jobs and services will need to be created. AUAF hopes to educate people to meet that challenge.
Meeting Challenges Head On.
The refugees come with everything they own. Livestock, furniture and family members stream over the border in heavy-laden trucks. Pakistan has been pressuring migrants to leave. Police raids and evictions have risen.
Nur Ahmad spoke on the issue.
“The police would always stop us and ask for money…Crossing [back] into Afghanistan was a dream for us, a dream come true, thank God.” (Afghanistan Analysts Network)
Pakistan is home to 1.5 million Afghan refugees. Most originally left because of intense fighting between the Taliban and US-led forces.
Some had left during the Soviet invasion of the 80s. They had been in Pakistan for 30 or more years. (Free Speech Radio News)
That first invasion involved heavy carpet bombing by the Soviets. This destroyed much of the countryside, which is now only being rebuilt.
With these new people come fresh challenges.
Vitally, the need for digital literacy has increased. ARIS, a new digital refugee registration system, has been employed to help track the returning folks. Farhad Azima of AUAF hopes that his university can help.
“Tech is foremost in our minds. We hope to graduate men and women who work to make refugees transitions safe.”
Using data from ARIS, the state hopes to predict where services will be most needed.
Another big issue they are dealing with is “Land Grabbing.” This is where powerful people seize land that has been abandoned. According to watchdog groups, they have received complaints of 240,000 hectares of land stolen in the last decade. (Reuters)
Refugee land is especially vulnerable. Only 34% of the land there is registered. Using better information technology will allow the government to survey land and create an ownership registry.
Refugees in Context
There are millions of refugees around the world. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported in 2016 that there were over 60 million refugees worldwide. (National Public Radio)
Most of these are in developing countries. Along with Syria and Somalia, Afghanistan has the most people that have been displaced.
Refugees are protected, but only a small trickle of people are able to return home. In 2015, a little more than 200,000 were able to do so.
In light of this, the number returning to Afghanistan is remarkable. It is three times that amount.
Nangrahar is a province in Eastern Afghanistan. Teeming with rich fields, the area is rather undeveloped. Only 8% of the homes have drinking water. Since the US Invasion, the people there have switched from growing Opium to wheat and other legal crops.
Opium production was decreased by about 95%. (Civil-Military Fusion Center)
The province was the site of intense fighting between US and Taliban forces.
In April, President Trump dropped a massive bomb on the region. Nicknamed “The Mother of all bombs” it was used to clear cave strongholds. (The New Yorker)
“We need to find a way to keep these people safe” said Farhad Azima.
“The hearts and souls of the Afghans coming in are our future.”