Afghan Refugees: In the Whirlpool of Return
The thing that has preoccupied the minds of the international community is not only a human crisis, but it is an issue that apparently challenges all the structures of the present order in the protection and observation of human rights.
The refugees crisis has spread all over the Middle East, Europe and North Africa, and the provision of fundamental rights of refugees has turned into the concern of a great number of NGOs and international organizations. In all of this, the situation of Afghan refugees who for decades continue to be migrants, and continues to this day, needs a review and more pause for thought and deliberation by international organizations and NGOs. Among the thousands of Afghan refugees around the world, the situation of those that are in Iran and Pakistan is very unique. With a look at their domestic economic problems and also the improvement of conditions in Afghanistan, countries that have played host to these refugees for many years want the repatriation of Afghan refugees as soon as possible, and want the UNHCR and Afghan government to further take care of this.
Refugees hesitation to return to Afghanistan
In view of the improvements of the economic, political and social conditions in Afghanistan and the establishment of stability compared to the past, Afghan refugees continue not to have the inclination to return to their country. Insecurity in most of Afghan provinces and the destruction of the rural and tribal system which created the economic and social links for Afghans in the past, are some of the common reasons in Afghan refugees not wanting to return to the country. Among the refugees that are in Iran, many have never understood Afghanistan and they see their homeland asa place where they are looked at as foreigners and guests. It must be said that the relative good conditions of Afghan refugees in Iran and the mutual links of the two nations are some of the reasons for Afghan refugees not wanting to return to their country. Also the cultural influence on a lot of the children of the refugees, prevents their reconformity with the present society in Afghanistan. In view of the many cultural and religious similarities between these two neighbouring countries, the second and third generation of refugees have, to an extent, become alienated with the patriarchal culture.
A large population of these refugees in Iran and Pakistan have created deep family links and are spread out in villages and towns very far away from Afghanistan. For example in many of remote towns and villages in Iran, the Afghan refugees population have been absorbed into the body of the host community. In villages in Iran where there are no locals, Afghan refugees community have lived in them for generations. In spite of strict citizenships conditions in Iran and repeated requests of the government, does not create the wish for refugees to return to a country which they might not even deem as their homeland. A large number of those who through the assistance of the UNHCR voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan, within a short time were forced to leave their country for a new destination and or have returned back to Iran.
One of the first problems that Afghan refugees face upon returning to Afghanistan is not having shelter and housing. Villages that once was home to their fathers, have either been destroyed or occupied by others. Returnee refugees are faced with an uncertain future, of course a future that requires the attention of the international community and those who want these refugees to return to their country.
Continued migration and displacements cause a lot mental health problems among families, which can threaten the mental health of a family for years to come. The lack of stability in every day life as a result of being on the move among afghan refugees, in their own country or abroad, has in a way become ordinary and accepted as norms of life. The unpleasant effects, could in the long run undermine the social health of a community.
Islamic Republic of Iran playing host to refugees
Over the last three decades, despite the countless economic problems and particular political conditions (such as the international sanctions and the 8 year Iraq-Iran war), Iran has been host to thousands of Afghan refugees. This is while the international community has not paid enough attention to these refugees and Iran has had the burden of responsibility for these people; a difficult duty, which on the basis of human principles and the belief structure of the Islamic system, Iran has been committed to, and continues on to this day. The situation that Europe is faced with today, cannot be solved with all international support and financial facilities.
Attention to the current situation of Afghan refugees in the UN session
On 7 October, the United Nations held a meeting focused on Afghanistan and the need for the attention of the international community to the existing conditions of migrants and refugees. "We call for the further attention of the international community towards the existing conditions in Afghanistan, conditions that have been forgotten for a while now, forgetting in this stage can be a terrible mistake and create a new crisis in the region." Antonio Goutriss, representative of the UNHCR also said that from approximately six million Afghan refugees across the world, 5.8 million have returned to Afghanistan with the help of the UNHCR and the Afghan government. Also there are 2.6 million Afghans dispersed in other countries. While thanking Iran and Pakistan for being host countries, the UNHCR representative called for further international cooperation for the return of the refugees and provision of their future.
A point that was noted in this UN meeting and the international community was that they were forced to note the economic, political and social pressures that Iran and Pakistan have been burdened with for accepting Afghan refugees, without any assistance by the international community and organizations. The crisis that has unbelievingly brought Europe to its knees is something that can be resolved with further collective action and cooperation of governments and international organizations. With the escalation and rise in the number of refugees entering Europe and the prospects of a bleak future ahead of them, the UN has started a new approach with the holding of this meeting, an approach which pursues the improvement of the conditions of Afghan refugees and migrants.
"The refugees issue cannot be forgotten on an island. This is a global and universal issue."
In another part of his report Goutriss said that in view of the recent unrests in Kunduz and the concern over the further escalation of this, attention to Afghanistan must be top priority for the UN and its bodies, and also NGOs, in order to be able to prevent the appearance of another crisis in the region.
Also in a video message, the Afghan president thanked Iran and Pakistan for playing host to thousands of Afghan refugees for years, and called for extensive collective efforts towards the preservation of peace and stability in the region, and expansion of global cooperation to solve the refugees crisis. Perhaps the attention that the UN is now paying towards the conditions of Afghan refugees is a bit late and starts with a 40 year delay, but there is hope that by learning lessons from past tragedies caused by international powers and the ignorance of some regional governments, that resulted in the displacement of millions of people in the region, can start a new path towards a world free of violence and conflict.
Political science expert