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    Millions of returnees to burden Afghanistan: IOM

    KABUL (PAN): A global humanitarian agency cautioned on Wednesday that millions of refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran could face serious socio-economic and security threats, as Afghanistan did not have the capacity to accommodate them.

     “The gradual return of an estimated 2.4 million undocumented Afghans from Iran and Pakistan will pose serious challenges,” said International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Special Envoy and Country Director Marco Boasso.

    Over five million Afghans fled the country when Soviet troops invaded the country in 1979 and sought refuge in neighbouring Pakistan, Iran and some Western states.

    After almost four decades, Pakistan and Iran are planning to repatriate millions to their native homeland, but there are growing concerns whether Afghanistan, with its tattered economy and unstable politics, would be able to absorb the returnees.

    According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates, since 2002, more than 5.7 million Afghan migrants have returned home.  Returnees constitute 25 percent of Afghanistan’s population, of whom an estimated 40 percent have not fully reintegrated, leaving them particularly vulnerable.

    Scarce access to land and housing, insufficient coping mechanisms, especially in relation to livelihood opportunities, compounded by security risks and limited access to basic services, are likely to impact those returning to their country of origin, said IOM. 

    “We are working with our partners in the government and the international community to support first and foremost the safe and orderly repatriation followed by proper reintegration of undocumented Afghans.

    “Sustainable reintegration of these people is key to the overall stability of the country and its fragile economy and greatly impacts migration dynamics in the sub-region,” said Boasso.