1.5 million Afghans residing in Pakistan: UNHCR

There is a 12 per cent increase in forcibly displaced people at the end of 2021 compared to the previous year


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Published: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 6:07 PM

Pakistan remains the largest country of asylum for Afghans, with 1.5 million refugees coming from the neighbouring nation, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report.

For the past five years, Afghanistan's situation has been a unique one in the region with a steady increase of forcibly displaced people every year. Last year, Afghanistan's situation deteriorated dramatically with a 12 per cent increase of forcibly displaced persons by the end of the year compared to the end of 2020.

"Globally, at the end of 2021, there were 6.4 million forcibly displaced Afghans, of which 89 per cent reside in the SouthWest Asia subregion," the UN agency said in a report titled Asia and the Pacific Regional Trends - Forced Displacement 2021.

According to the report, neighbouring countries experienced influxes of Afghans fleeing the country.

UNHCR in Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan pre-screened/pre-registered Afghans who may be in need of international protection. By the end of 2021, the number of new arrivals who approached UNHCR and Partners in Pakistan (1,08,000), Tajikistan (2,700) and Iran (27,800) reached 1,38,500.

"Pakistan remains the largest country of asylum for Afghans, with 1.5 million Afghans residing in Pakistan. This includes POR card holders, unregistered nuclear family members of POR card holders (UMRF), asylum-seekers, and newly arrived Afghans in 2021," the UNHCR report said.

"Afghans refugees and asylum-seekers figures increased in various countries compared to 2020, notably in Pakistan (+56,000, +4 per cent), Germany (+22,000, +12 per cent), Turkiye (+11,000, +8 per cent) and in Tajikistan (+8,000, +130%)," the report added.

In Afghanistan, the number of internally displaced persons has been increasing rapidly in the past 5 years. Globally, Afghanistan remains the 6th largest IDP (Internally Displaced Person) country and the largest IDP population in the Asia and the Pacific region at 3.5 million -- a 20 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

By the end of 2021, there were 7,77,000 newly displaced Afghans during the year due to the deterioration in conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan. 58 per cent of the IDP population in Afghanistan are children under 18 and 21 per cent are women.

The UNHCR report has argued that durable solutions for Afghans include voluntary repatriation, resettlement to a third country, local integration, naturalization and return to the place of origin prior to displacement.

However, a growing number of displaced populations have limited opportunities for a durable solution.

As new refugee situations intensify and existing ones remain unsolved, there is an acute and growing need for durable solutions.

"Despite the increase in return of IDPs in Afghanistan due to the change in the situation since 15 August 2021, durable solutions have struggled to keep up given the rapid pace of new displacement over the last 5 years," the report said.

From 2017 to 2019, resettlement arrivals to resettlement countries within the region were around 4,000-5,000, however, in 2020, there was a drastic drop to around 800 due to border restrictions in place because of Covid-19.


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