By: Suraya Raiszada
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for intensified support for displaced Afghans and their hosting communities, ahead of the first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, next week.
As we enter the fifth decade of Afghan displacement, some 4.6 million Afghans remain uprooted globally – including some 2.7 million registered as refugees, and another two million displaced inside Afghanistan. Afghans represent the longest displaced and the longest dispossessed population under UNHCR’s mandate worldwide.
An overwhelming majority of some 90% Afghan refugees remain in the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran. Afghans are also the single largest group of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe, due to a sharp deterioration in security in Afghanistan, and increasing financial pressure on hosting nations.
In both Iran and Pakistan, Afghan refugees access education and national healthcare systems. The results of this inclusive approach have been remarkable and world-leading. In Iran, the literacy of Afghan children has risen more than tenfold since 1979. Official figures estimate that some 480,000 Afghan refugees and undocumented children are currently enrolled in school for 2019-2020, indicating a continuing increase from previous years.
In Pakistan, the Government and UNHCR are working together under the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative to boost support to host communities and alleviate the burden placed on infrastructure and resources. Since 2009, these programs have benefitted more than 12.4 million Pakistanis and Afghan refugees in total.
Inside Afghanistan, the Government is partnering with UNHCR and others to support returnees and host communities with return and reintegration projects, focusing on livelihoods, education, healthcare support and energy. This year alone, approximately 350,000 Afghans have been helped by sustainable development initiatives promoting access to key infrastructure including energy, education and affordable housing.
The overwhelming majority of Afghans both within the country and in exile are youth. In Pakistan and Iran, approximately three quarters are under the age of 25. These young refugees are the future of Afghanistan and are critical to shaping their communities – but they will require more support to do so.
As the world comes together for the Global Refugee Forum next week, it is imperative that those affected by decades of Afghan displacement remain a shared priority.
Meanwhile, a number of Afghan political experts have considered the migration issue of Afghans in foreign countries as one of the most principal challenges of Afghanistan people, stressing on world support to Afghan refugees.
“Migration is a common issue and one of basics of human life, but there are various reasons behind migration of Afghans to foreign countries,” said Saifuddin Saihoon, a lecturer of Kabul University.
He added migration of Afghans to foreign countries was because of increasing insecurities, unemployment and poverty, stressing that this was the responsibility of the government to provide better opportunities for its citizens to prevent them from migration to foreign countries.
It is worth mentioning that a three-day global gathering aimed at transforming the way the world responds to refugee situations starts today in Geneva, Switzerland.
The first-ever Global Refugee Forum brings together refugees, heads of state and government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organizations, business leaders and civil society representatives, among others, at the Palais des Nations, the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva.