Afghan Refugees and their return from Pakistan


Since 2002 approximately 5.7 million Afghan refugees returned to Afghanistan[1]; but yet many Afghans live as refugees in various countries around the globe, especially in the neighbouring countries. Currently there are approximately 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan from which 1.6 million are registered and the remaining are not. [2]

After attacking the military school in Peshawar of Pakistan in December 2014 the issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan became serious, and Pakistan changed its policy toward Afghan refugees there. After the peace process this issue is also important for Afghan government, because the Pakistani police forced Afghan refugees and as the result a huge number of them returned back to the country. As the result, the Afghan Refugee and Immigration Minister Sayed Alemi Balkh has gone on a long trip to Pakistan, and CEO Abdullah Abdullah also want to go on a trip to Pakistan regarding this issue.


The Process of Return of Afghan Refugees (January-March)

With the change of the condition, many Afghan refugees return back to the country, which most of them were unregistered refugees. According to the research done by IOM, up to the March 7th of the current year 47696 unregistered Afghan refugees returned back to the country, which most of them (53%) are located in Ningarhar, and then Kunar, Laghman, Kunduz, and Kabul[3]. (Look at the statistics in the first and second table).

Based on the researches done by UNHCR, in the first two months of the current year, there are approximately 7721 registered Afghan refugees returned to the country (3879 in January and 3842 in February). If we compare these statistics with the ones of 2014, that time only 612 registered Afghan refugees returned[4].

First Table: Unregistered Afghan Refugees Returned from Pakistan (Turkham)

Date By Self Forced Total
January 2015 22274 1472 23746
February 2015 18935 1575 20510
March 1st– 7th 3088 352 3440
Total 44297 3399 47696

Reference: The International Organization for Migration

Second Table: Comparing the average of increase 92014-2015)

Type 2014 2015 Comparing
self-exit 59 per day 671 per day 11 fold increase
By force exit 10 per day 52 per day 5 fold increase

Reference: International Organization for Migration


The Policy of Islamabad:

With the last attack in Peshawar, the life of Afghan refugees in Pakistan also became miserable. Pakistan called it 9/11 of Pakistan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif changed its internal policy and summarized it in 21 points called “National Action Plan”. The return of Afghan refugee is also included in those 21 points.

Nawaz Sharif did not answer the question that why are Afghan refugees involved in “National Action Plan” of Pakistan; but there are rumours that Pakistan believes that Afghans were involved in this incident. Some Pakistani media broadcasted news that two out of the six attackers were Afghans[5]. With all those claims the high ranking officials did not accept such news.

Currently the policy of Pakistan toward Afghan refugees is to return them to Afghanistan as soon as possible. Many times they declared that unregistered refugees in Pakistan are illegal, and they will take “legal action” about them; but for the registered refugees Pakistan want to show the world that 2015 will be the last year for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

In the trilateral conference[6] held in Pakistan it is decided that unregistered Afghan refugees will be registered within upcoming four months; but they did not say anything about the extension of the Afghan Citizen cards of the registered refugees. The return of all registered and unregistered Afghan refugees to the country up to the end of 2015 seems to be challenging, and at the end of the year they will stay jobless, homeless and without any future (as the ones in 2012) [7], or that time their cards dates may extend for a short term.


The Policy of Kabul:

Ashraf Ghani, in his first speech to the Upper House, clearly said that Afghan refugees are an integral part of the Afghan Nation, and if those refugees do not return to the country, the nation will not be completed[8]. CEO Abdullah Abdullah also has a similar idea and he may have a relevant trip to Pakistan very soon.

As the result of the reports about the cruelty of Pakistani Police and the return of more than 50,000 Afghan refugees to the country in last two months, the Refugee and Migration Minister Alemi Balkhi has gone to Pakistan to solve this issue.

Afghan delegation has met with the prime minister, advisor of the foreign affairs and governor of Khaibar Pashtonkhwa of Pakistan, and it also participated in a trilateral conference regarding refugees. It is reported that the second phase of the conference between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and UNHCR will be held in Geneva.

As after the peace and security, the priority of Afghan government seems to be the priority of Afghan Government[9]; yet the government tries that the refugees should be returned gradually, and the forced return of unregistered refugees should be stopped.

If the return of refugees continue as of the last two months, it will put pressure on the Afghan government, regarding this issue Afghan government has taken reasonable actions and it has chosen such a strategy for the return of the refugees:

  1. The honourable and by-will return of refugees to the country;
  2. Gradual return of the refugees. [10]

Based on the request of Afghan Government for stopping by-force return of unregistered Afghan refugees and stop hurting refugees by Pakistani police, Pakistan accepted to register all unregistered Afghan refugees in the upcoming four months.


Impacts of the refugees issue on bilateral relations:

The issue of Afghan refugees is not only a political, economic, and security issue, but also an issue of humanitarian dilemma. It is neither useful for Pakistan to force Afghan refugees to return to Pakistan, nor is it beneficial for Afghan government to welcome millions of refugees to return to the country at the same time.

It is beneficial for both the countries to solve this issue by cooperating each other; on one hand Pakistan will increase its soft power in Afghanistan, on the other hand, the Afghan government will not come under economic pressure, and Pakistan will also not suffer from economic loss.

In addition to that, hurting Afghan refugees by Pakistani police will not only have bad impacts on the relations of both the governments, but will also have bad impacts on the relationship of the nations of both the countries that have mutual cultures and other aspects.

The End



[1] See online:

[2] See online:

[3] International Organisation of Migrations, return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan, update as of 7th March 2015.

[4]Christine Roehrs, The refugee dilemma: Afghans in Pakistan between expulsion and failing aid schemes, Afghanistan Analysts Network, 9th March 2015

[5] Express Tribune, 11 militants carried out Peshawar school attack: Police report, dec 23, 2014. See it online at:

[6]  This decision was taken in the trilateral conference of Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR, in which Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi participated.

[7]  In 2012 while the cards of Afghan refugees were expire dated, there was not any decision taken up to 2014, so the Pakistani police were hurting Afghan refugees.

[8] See online:

[9] Many time the Refugee and Migration minister Alemi Balkhi said that return of refuges is one of the priorities of the National Unity Government. Read the interview of the minister with Farsinews:

Also read his views in the trilateral conference in Islamabad:

[10]  The views of Afghan Refugees and Migration Minister Alemi Balkhi in the trilateral conference of Islamabad:  

For more information read the news of Azadi Radio, Balkhi: the return of Afghan refugees from Paksitan should be by-self and honourable exit, read it in the below link:




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