22,000 Afghan families flee Pakistan: IOM
KABUL: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Afghanistan said that thousands of Afghan families are fleeing Pakistan to escape harassment after a deadly Taliban attack on Army Public School in Peshawar.
In a statement posted on its website, Richard Danzinger, the IOM's mission chief in Afghanistan, said more than 22,000 undocumented Afghans flocked across the border at Torkham in January, more than twice the figure for the whole of 2014.
In January this year nearly 24,000 undocumented Afghans entered Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province through Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing. This was nearly 93 per cent of the total number of undocumented Afghans who returned through Torkham during all of 2014. Roughly 94 per cent of Afghans returning in recent weeks did so spontaneously, while the rest were deported.
Currently there are approximately three million Afghans living in Pakistan – one of the world’s largest, if not the largest, single host country of displaced persons. Of these, more than one million are estimated to be undocumented and lacking the legal protections afforded to documented refugees.
The Afghan government, IOM and its humanitarian partners are closely monitoring the return situation in Afghanistan. In coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, IOM has deployed additional field monitors to Torkham to interview returning families and further assess the situation.
Recent security incidents in Pakistan, the statement said raised tensions in the country, with calls for mass deportations of undocumented Afghans from some sections of the population. Although there have been no large-scale arrests, deportations or evictions, the substantial increase in returns reflect the concerns of undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan.
The majority of returning Afghan families are coming from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Kashmir provinces in Pakistan. Most of the families had lived in Pakistan for an average of 20 years, the statement added.
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