Afghanistan Itself Is Now Taking In the Most Afghan Migrant

A truck carried the belongings of a repatriated Afghan refugee family across the border with Pakistan into Afghanistan in September. Credit A Majeed/Agence France-Presse 
SAMARKHEL, Afghanistan — There is one country in the world that is now taking in more
Afghan migrants than all the countries in Europe and South Asia put together this year.
That would be Afghanistan itself.
By the end of the year, aid officials here expect some 1.5 million migrants to return to Afghanistan — many of them forcibly, and including some officially registered as refugees.
A far larger number are being forced back by Iran and, particularly, Pakistan, where the United Nations says there are 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees and an additional 700,000 undocumented Afghans.

Official or unofficial, many of the Afghans had lived abroad for decades, and they are returning to a country where the war is at its most traumatic since 2001. And as they come back, they are redrawing the demographic map of a region that has long been defined by its displaced population and where cities are already straining to deal with rapidly expanding tent camps and shanty towns. 

Afghans arriving at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees repatriation center in Torkham, as they crossed back into Afghanistan. Credit Noorullah Shirzada/Agence France-Presse 
Many of those returning spent many years and even decades in their host countries, including many people born there who are now adults with children of their own.
“I don’t remember a time this difficult,” said Maya Ameratunga, the Afghanistan director for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She had previously worked in Pakistan. “Now we’re dealing with the population who left Afghanistan in the 1980s and don’t know this country.”


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