Bad Condition of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan


Afghan refugees face many challenges in Pakistan, but Afghan Government did not take any action. However, repatriation of refugees is in the priorities of the new Afghan Government; but according to new afghan minister of refugees Alami Balkhi, Afghan government is not ready for the emergency return of refugees to the homeland.

Recently the issue of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan is warm because of two reasons:

  1. Expiry date of the legal Afghan refugees (who are registered with the Pakistani government) up to the end of 2015.
  2. The bloody incident of Peshawar, which killed more than 150 Students in one of the Army Public School

The issue of repatriation of Afghan refugees by Pakistani government got warm once again after the attack on a military school in Peshawar. Pakistan changed its policy towards the religious fundamentalists, and the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif summarized its policy, which one of those was the repatriation of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan.

The Stages of Afghan Refugees to Pakistan:

Because of civil wars in the country, Afghans started migrating to other countries during last few decades, which its process to Pakistan started in 1973, which will be briefly discussed as below:

First stage: the first stage of migration of Afghans to Pakistan started before the operations of Islami Nahzat in 1354 solar year, approximately 300 Afghans migrated to Pakistan at that time.

Second Stage: With the Saur revolution, the process of migration to Pakistan increased, and the number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan in 1978 reached up to 80,000, and then in 1979, it reached 400,000[1].

Third Stage: During the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (1979 to 1989), there were more than three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Fourth Stage: Though with the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan, many Afghan families returned to the country, but with the beginning of civil war in the country, many more migrated to Pakistan.

Fifth Stage: After the incident of 9/11 of 2001 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, some Afghans migrated to Pakistan in order to be safe. However, when the Bonn Conference established interim administration in Afghanistan, approximately 3.2 million Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan returned to the country. [2]

With the cooperation of UNHCR the registration of Afghan refugees in Pakistan started in 2007, through which 1.7 Afghan refugees were registered, and Pakistan has given those Identity Cards of (Afghan citizens). Those ID cards were renewed in 2010, 2012, and 2014, which the current cards will expire at the end of the current (2015) year. This issue had increased the discussions in Pakistan that the current cards should not be renewed, but they have to be sent back to their country.

The Reasons of Migration to Pakistan:

There are mainly two reasons for migration and taking asylum in other places:

  1. Because of conflicts and war.
  2. Because of natural disasters.

If we pay attention to the modern political history, those places that face conflicts, especially Muslim World, the number of migration in those places increase day by day.

Meanwhile there are push factors or pull factors for the process of migration, which most of the factors in Afghanistan are push factors. The reasons that forced Afghans inside Afghanistan to leave their country and migrate to other countries are namely:

  • Saur Revolution;
  • The ten years invasion of Soviet Union of the country;
  • Political instability and civil wars.

However, there are yet some reasons that Afghan refugees do not want to return to their country, which are namely:

  1. Instability and insecurity in Afghanistan;
  2. The educational opportunities in other countries;
  3. The facilities of life in other countries;
  4. Their ongoing businesses in those countries;
  5. Lack of residential halls for most of the refugees;
  6. High prices and unemployment in Afghanistan;
  7. Challenges to their life with the existence of foreign forces, and so on.


The Number of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan:

Most of Afghan refugees are located in Khyber Pashtoonkhwa state, which are more than one million. After that, Afghan refugees are located in Baluchistan, Punjab, Sind, Islamabad, and Kashmir. (For more information, see the table):

State Families People Within Comps Out of Comps
Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa 180,516 families 1,086,185 ones 546,827 ones 539,357 ones
Baluchistan 52,716 families 362,225 ones 89,384 ones 267,841 ones
Sind 13,369 families 74,424 ones 74,424 ones
Punjab 31,496 families 192,020 ones 15,215 ones 176,805 ones
Islamabad 6,756 families 35,565 ones 35,565 ones
Azad Kashmir 1,224 families 7,116 ones 7,116 ones
Total 286,075 families 1,752,533 ones 651,426 ones 1,101,107 ones

See the statistics of Afghan Refugees in the states of Pakistan in the Pakistan UNGCR website[3]

Most of the refugees in Pakistan are from those provinces, which can be called war-suffered provinces: like Ningarhar, Kunar, Lugar, Paktia, Laghman, Kandahar, and Helmand. (See the table for more information)

Ningarhar Kundoz Kabul Logar Baghlan Paktia Laghman Kunar Kandahar Helmand
311,606 199,842 193,433 141,921 123,298 122,763 101,402 97,809 85,187 49,766
Total 1,427,021

See the website of UNHCR[4]


The returned refugees in 2015 and their conditions here:

However, the Pakistani officials had said that Afghan refugees, who are registered and have “Afghan Citizen” Identity Cards, would not be forced to return to their country[5]: but, Pakistani Police abuse the registered Afghan refugees and they are indirectly forced to leave Pakistan, and with all the existing challenges return to the country in the cold winter. [6] Therefore, many of registered Afghan refugees returned to the country since the beginning of the year.

There are not reliable statistics to show the exact number of Afghan returned refugees from the beginning of 2015, and no organization has done survey about it; but there are researches done about the return of undocumented refugees.

Undocumented Refugees:

Based on a new survey done by International Organizations for Migration, since January 1 of 2015 up to the 14th February of the same year approximately 35,889 undocumented refugees had returned to the county because of the changing conditions of Pakistan.  Many of them (36 %) are in Ningarhar Province, especially in Jalalabad City, and the rest of them are residing in Kunar, Laghman, and Kabul. This number is more than the overall return of the refugees in the entire 2014 year. In 2014, there were approximately 21,692 refugees returned, and 3,754 were forcefully returned by Pakistan; but only in these two months, there were 2,204 refugees forced by Pakistan to return to Afghanistan, and more than 32 thousand refugees returned by their own interest.

Half of these returned refugees are living in the houses that they rented, and most of them are concerned about the education of their children. They are also concerned about resuming works and businesses[7]; it is in such a condition that even before their return there was 30 % unemployment in Afghanistan.


Number of Undocumented Returnees in 2015 (Torkham)

Total Deportees Spontaneous returnees Date
23781 1,472 22,309 January 2015
6,818 345 6,473 1-7th February
5,290 387 4,903 8-14th February
35,889 ones 2,204 33,685 Total

Return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan (Update as of 16 February 2015) by International Organisations of Migration, Kabul.

Average Trends per Day (Unregistered Refugees): 2014 VS 2015

Type of Caseloads 2014 2015 Comparing two years
Spontaneous undocumented individuals 59 per day 749 per day 13 times increase
Deported undocumented individuals 10 per day 49 per day 5 times increase

Return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan (Update as of 16 February 2015) by International Organisations of Migration, Kabul.


The Policy of Afghan Government for the return of Refugees:

Afghan refugees create a huge number of Afghan Nation, without the existence of the Afghan refugees Afghan nation will be incomplete, but there are also skilled, educated and well trained people within these refugees and they can play an important role in the development of the country; but currently Afghanistan is not economically ready to accept a huge number of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Therefore, Afghan President in his speech to the Upper House said that Afghan Refugees create a massive number of the nation and without their existence, Afghan nation is not complete[8].

The CEO of the national unity government Abdullah Abdullah told media that very soon, the government will take decision about the Afghan refugees, and a delegation will be sent to Pakistan about this issue[9].

The new Minister Alami Balkhi had also said in a speech that return of Afghan refugees is in the priorities of the new government, and he further added; “the desire of Afghan government is that the Pakistani Government should stop forcing the refugees to return back to Afghanistan and their return should be gradual, so the Afghan government will be able to welcome them with honor and provide opportunities for them.”

To summarize, Afghan government want to return Afghan refugees as below:

  1. Pakistan should stop forcing Afghan refugees to return;
  2. The return of Afghan refugees should take place gradually;
  3. The refugees should be returned in such a condition that the Afghan government would be ready to welcome them with honor.

Afghan side also hope that the ID cards should be renewed, because Afghan government need time for it and immediately it is not ready to accept such a huge number of refugees and provide facilities for them[10].

The End


[1] UNHCRA, A/AC.96/577-14 August 1980, 31st Session Executive Committee, Report on UNHCR Assistance Activities in 1979-1980 and Proposed Voluntary Funds Programmes and Budget for 1981, par. 602, p. 175.

[2] UNHCR, Afghan Refugee Statistics, February 2005



[5] Daily Times, Afghan refugees can legally stay in Pakistan Until end of 2015, see it online:


[6]  .With all the registration forms and documents, yet Afghan refugees are abused by the police of Pakistan and their houses are searched and they are terrified by them, for more information read the article of Azadi radio.

Read the second report about it:

[7] International Organisations of Migration, Return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan (Update as of 16 February 2015) See it online:


[9] and Muhammad Hasan Khetab, Abdullah Concerned about refugees in Pakistan, pajhwok news, Feb 16, 2015. See it online:


[10] Interview with the secretor of the Ministry of migration and refugee affairs of Afghanistan.





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