Afghan Refugees



Main Reason for Leaving:

The spread of refugees from Afghanistan to other countries around the world started less than a year after the Russian army invaded Kabul on December 27th in 1979. Claiming that they were asked to come by the Amin government to help fight the Mujahideen, a group made up of islamic fundamentalists, afghani refugees who (having left as soon as the Russians arrived) had come back to fight the government. What the Soviet army had actually done was to make the Amin government a puppet government for their rule over Afghanistan. The Russian/Soviet invasion of Afghanistan after christmas in 1979 is the the single-most impetus that caused the mass exodus of Afghani people to countries such as Pakistan and Iran, as well as other countries around the world.

The Taliban, partnered with the Mujahideen, were able to topple the Soviet regime by the late 1980's; the last Soviet troops left around 1989.taliban.jpg Unfortunately, though, the Taliban were even worse; corruption and crime ran rampant throughout the remnants of a ruined country. The cruel violence and harsh sharia system of punishment drove many more Afghans out of Afghanistan.

Other reasons for Afghans to seek refugee in other countries are the dwindling resources available to the Afghan people. When the Taliban administration banned the growing of poppies, flowers necessary to produce heroin, even more Afghani people left Afghanistan. It may not sound like banning flowers is such a bad thing, but heroin is one of Afghanistan's largest exports.

In 1990 there were 6.2 million Afghan refugees. This was the greatest number of refugees from Afghanistan. From that point on, many Afghan refugees returned to their country. For example, between late 2001 and the present, over 4 million Afghan refugees returned to their country. Also, in 2001, Afghans applied for asylum in over 71 countries. For instance, since 19994, Germany has received 50,000 refugees from Afghanistan, the Netherlands has received 36,000 Afghan refugees, and the U.K. received 34,000. Today, even though many refugees have returned home to Afghanistan, Afghans are still the largest refugee group in the world. Over 3 million plus Afghan refugees are still in Pakistan and Iran. Of those refugees, 70-80 per cent remaining in Pakistan have been said to have been there
map of afghanistan refugees as of June 2001 at the latest
for over two decades and 50 percent were allegedly born in exile. A census showed that the majority of Afghan families in Pakistan arrived there in the early years of the refugee crisis and in fact, about 50% arrived in Pakistan in 1979 and 1980. This fact, plus the fact that so many of the Afghans were actually born in Pakistan and not Afghanistan, make convincing them to return/go back to Afghanistan even more difficult since they have never really lived there (or at least not for a very long time) and do not feel that connection which could otherwise encourage them them to return. Those 4 million returnees have returned to homes that have been destroyed and to a horrible social, physical, and economic situation. Over the past few years Pakistan, citing security reasons, has started closing refugee camps.Afghanistan_Refugees_Asylum_Graph_highres.jpg

This year the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has helped about 300,000 refugees return to Afghanistan from Pakistan. The problem is that once they return, they have nothing to return to as many do not have homes to return to so end up in camps due to the lack of land or the location of their former homes being in the battle zones in the war with the Taliban. However, both Pakistan and Iran believe that the large concentrations of refugees in their countries create a security risk and crime risk, and the the constant crossing of the boarders of refugees and smuggling of goods is dangerous and has and will continue to have a negative impact on Pakistan and Iran.
8,582 Total Refugees
DEFINITION: 8,582 Total Refugees from Afghanistan, years 2000-2004
SOURCE: Administration for Children and Families, Office of Refugee Resettlement || reformatted by group members
PICTURE- Refugees in Afghanistan

Leaving Experiences:

All the people who managed to escape persecution and war in Afghanistan pay a very big price. They risk their lives to get out, and they then have to survive in a totally different society, with a different language, different culture, separated from family and friends. The refugees who fled war and persecution in Afghanistan arrived in Australia with hopes for a life of peace, freedom and dignity. But they were not given any of the rights that refugees arriving in other countries receive under international law.Even though there is no doubt that they meet the criteria for refugee status, they were locked in detention centres, treated like criminchart1.jpgals for no reason. They are punished for having no choice except to flee from a desperate situation.
"Those of us who were lucky enough to be released from detention found that we still do not receive our right to freedom and security. We are given only temporary protection visas, which put our lives in limbo for even longer. These visas extend our suffering. It is very hard to settle into the community properly and make a new life for ourselves and our families when we know we could be deported at any time". --Nooria Wazifadost

Among the millions of refugees from Afghanistan, the majority who have come to Australia in the last few years are from the Hazara ethnic group. Hazaras have been persecuted for centuries in Afghanistan religiously, politically, ethnically. They have faced many massacres by the officials and warlords. And the same people who were responsible for the massacres in the final years of Taliban rule now share power in the current government.
And there is starvation and disease. It is getting worse each day as the almost non-existent accommodation, health care, food and other facilities in Afghanistan get overloaded by more and more people returning. Even the UN is saying that no more Afghan refugees should be returned because of the crisis there.
The current destruction and war in Afghanistan not only makes it impossible for the refugees to return there, it endangers the lives of the millions of people already living there and this will create more refugees. The militant groups and leaders who were responsible for the destruction in the past want to keep their power and they will continue inflaming the political, ethnic and religious differences in Afghanistan to keep all the nationalists and fundamentalists fighting each other so they can rule over a divided people.

Afghan Refugees: on the Increase or Decrease?

Throughout Afghanistan buildings lay crumbled on the ground and those who have not fled are starving, and everyday Afghans have to worry about their safety. The country is barren, but those who remain are mostly radical religious groups like the Taliban, which is the reason thousands of Afghans are fleeing, and not coming back. No part of Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts toward westerners and non Islamic Afghans. Everyday more and more Afghans are being forced to flee because they fear for their lives. Most Afghans head to their bordering country Pakistan, but Pakistan is not able to take anymore Afghan refugees and have taken the drastic action of sending their police force to try and remove millions of refugees from the country. On July 7th 2008 Pakistan ordered the deportation of about 50,000 Afghan refugees from Bajaur, which is a city along the border with Afghanistan. "The orders have been issued for police to push all of them out," ² Abdul Haseeb, a local government official, said, adding that their homes would be bulldozed to keep them from returning. An estimated 20,000 refugees had returned to Afghanistan this summer. Thousands more have moved to other parts of Pakistan.

Afghan refugees may be a growing source of regional tension in Pakistan. Fewer Afghans are returning home while more of them leave the country for jobs and security. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres made a statement about Afghan Refugees. Guterres told a conference that while more than 5 million out of 8 million Afghan refugees have returned home since 2002 after the Taliban lost power, the number of those returning is falling. As the Taliban-led insurgency gains pace, insecurity, food shortages, lack of access to land, shelter and education is discouraging many people from re settling in Afghanistan, Guterres said. Although Pakistan and Iran still host nearly 3 million Afghan refugees and want to increase repatriation, Guterres said that destitute Afghanistan would be challenged to cope with such high numbers of returning people. "Few developing countries could absorb such a population increase in such a short period without showing signs of economic and social stress," Guterres said.¹

On September 20th 2000, following U.S. demands, Pakistan closed its borders with Afghanistan leaving tens of thousands of Afghans fleeing the country in fear of U.S. attacks behind closed gates.The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says emergency meetings are underway in Pakistan to discuss how to deal with the situation."Thousands of people in Afghanistan are already on the move, joining millions others who were displaced inside and outside the country even before the latest crisis," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said. "We must do everything we can to avoid further displacement of innocent civilians." Although the main border gates between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been closed, the 2,240 km (1,400-mile) long border is porous and has been used as smuggling route for centuries.On Wednesday, despite the border closure, an estimated 400 Afghan refugees crossed the border near the Pakistan city of Quetta.

This graph is showing the increase of Afghan refugees is directly related to their invasion from foreign countries. For example you can see in 1979 when the Soviet invasion occured their was a drastic increase of refugees, but when the soviet withdrew the millions of Afghans that had fled returned as fast as they could. Also when the United States invaded the Afghan refugee number was around 4.5 million, and as our country withdrew slowly but surely the frightened Afghanis returned home.

Overall, Afghan refugees are scared to go back to their home country because they think it is currently unstable. Afghans think if they return home, a new dictator or terrorist group will make their lives so unbearable. Unfortunately, most refugees will not have a choice in whether they want to go home. The refugee camps are just thousands of tents setup to brave the cold winters. In a large refugee camp disease is spread easily and there is little food. The Pakistan government is frustrated with the millions of Afghans trying to cross their border. If Afghans decided to come home most of them would be unemployed and Afghanistan overall is not considered a very safe country to live in, lack of land, shelter and education makes Afghans doubtful that there homeland will ever be the way they remembered it.

Afghanistan Refugee Camp

Connections to the Text:

The theme of refugees from Afghanistan is shown explicitly in chapter thirteen of Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner". Chapter thirteen deals with Amir and Baba leaving Afghanistan to go the US. Like many other refugees they leave because of the Taliban and the violence they brought to Afghanistan. When Amir goes back later, he is told by his driver Farid "You still think of this place as your country?" (231). When Amir and Baba were leaving Afghanistan they had many of the same experiences other refugees had. They had to be smuggled out in the back of the truck, had to deal with corrupt officials and learned to live with death as one of Assef's friends was killed in the bottom of an oil truck. Like many refugees, they learned to live with dissapointment, such as when they get to Jalalabad and are told they can't continue traveling to Peshawar and are told to go live in the dirty basement with the rats and other straggling refugees.Unlike many refugees, though, Baba and Amir are able to leave the middle east and Travel to America and are able to start a new life and become successful. Only around 8500 documented refugees from Afghanistan were living in the United States from 2000 to 2004. In this way, Amir and Baba were much luckier than 90% of Afghhani refugees. The refugee camps are all terrible places to live.
The Refugee Camps
One camp is the Maslakh Camp in Afghanistan, this camp is so big when you first look at it that it looks like it can be a town. But on the inside it is the same as a regular refugee camp. In this camp when you walk you will most likely step in human waste. Its Afghanresidents rush at Westerners, desperate for food, fuel or other help. Barefoot on the freezing ground, hundreds and hundreds of people gather at the feeding centers. Using rifles and whips the guards will beat back the hungry and cold as they rush for the firewood. This camp is a temporary home for about 170,000 people. This is one of the largest camps
for displaced people in the world. The name Maslakh is Farsi for "slaughterhouse." This name suits the camp very well. "Maslakh is an open wound on the face of humanity, that's for sure," said Alejandro Chicheri, a spokesman for the United Nations' World Food Program, which delivers food to the camp every day. "But saying that, it's not much worse than what you see around Afghanistan."The war is more or less over in Afghanistan, but millions remain homeless inside and outside its borders. The United Nations and independent aid agencies can help rebuild Afghanistan and diplomats might yet help steer the country to political stability.

¹Afghan refugees are 'source of tension'
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
²Afghan refugees are 'source of tension'
By Agence France Presse (AFP)


Khaled Hosseini: There's no quick-fix to Afghanistan's refugee crisis | Comment is free | In-Depth Specials
Chamtala Settlement Journal - Afghan Refugees Return Home but Find Only a Life of Desperation -
BBC NEWS | In Pictures | In pictures: Afghan refugees
The Origins of the Soviet-Afghan War
Office Of Refugee Resettlement: Data
Middle East Report Online: Afghanistan's Refugee Crisis , by Hiram Ruiz and Margaret Emery