Afghans returning from Pakistan share their fears of an uncertain future

Human Rights

It has been over 3 months since the Pakistani government announced that undocumented Afghans had to leave the country or face deportation. Since then, almost 500,000 Afghans have been forced to return to their homeland.

Supported by EU funding, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has been on the ground at the border crossings and in the other areas where people have settled. They spoke to a number of Afghans about the challenges they are facing.

After so many years of conflict and economic crises, Afghanistan has little to offer. Those who have returned are facing many difficulties, such as the lack of shelter, food, winter clothes, and, most importantly, work opportunities.

The following testimonials reflect their dire conditions in a difficult winter.

“How will we manage the rent?”

Naseer Ahmad, a 25-year-old father of 2 girls, came back from Pakistan after living there for almost 6 years. He shares the rent of a house with his brother’s and his brother-in-law’s families. “Every day, 3 of us [men] go to the market but find no work”.

Upon arrival at the Torkham border crossing, Naseer Ahmad’s family received 8,000 AFN (around USD 115) in assistance. However, he had to spend 1,500 AFN to rent a vehicle and transport their belongings and used the remaining funds for medical expenses. “Now we have nothing left. My kids and I became sick. We went to the doctor and got some medicine. Now I owe 2,000 AFN to the doctor,” he says.

Naseer Ahmad is anxious about how to pay the rent for the house where he and his family are staying. He says, “We have to pay 5,500 AFN a month for the rent, but we have no money and no job. How will we manage the rent this month?

“I have no work here”

Ali used to work as a tuk-tuk driver and a battery repairer in Peshawar, Pakistan. After returning to Afghanistan, he is living  with his family and that of his brother in a rented house now.

Ali says he has not been able to find a job in Afghanistan since he came back. “I have no work here. I look for a job every day, but I can’t find anything,” he says. “I know how to fix batteries, but I don’t have the tools and equipment. I also don’t have the money to buy them.

Sana is Ali’s 8-year-old niece who came back from Pakistan with her family at the same time. Sana was a third-grade student, and she wants to continue her education in Afghanistan. She says, “I want to be a doctor or engineer in the future. I ask the world to help all the returned students go to school.

“It took us 3 days to get here”

Niazmina, 25, is one of the many Afghan women who have returned to their country after living in Pakistan for almost two years. She says that her family had a better life in Pakistan. Her brother had a job and could support them. “We have nothing to do here in Afghanistan. There is no work,” she says.

Along the way, Niazmina and her family realised that their return would not be as smooth as they had expected. They had to borrow money and share a truck with 7 other families to transport their belongings from Pakistan to the Torkham border. “It took us 3 days to get here. We were very tired and hungry. We could not rest or sleep on the way,” she says.

Niazmina’s story is not unique. Hundreds of female-headed households have returned from Pakistan in the past few weeks, facing similar challenges and uncertainties. They need urgent support and protection to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into their communities.

NRC is one of the EU-supported partners that are working on the ground to address the most urgent needs of returnees. This includes providing information, counselling, and legal assistance, as well as cash for rent and winterisation support.

Last year, the EU allocated around €156 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Part of the latest €60 million released in November was aimed at addressing the returnee crisis. EU humanitarian aid in Afghanistan is solely channelled through humanitarian partners on the ground.

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