Following the order for 1.7 million “undocumented” Afghan nationals to leave Pakistan by the end of November, we have begun to witness the beginnings of a dire humanitarian crisis at the Afghanistan border. Every day, men, women and children are arriving in their thousands in Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces, the majority of whom having left all their belongings behind, with no idea what their futures hold. 

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According to UNHCR, more than 350,000 Afghan nationals have left Pakistan since the new policy was announced in early October, despite some of these men, women and children never having lived in Afghanistan. As many as 2,500-3,000 families are making this journey to Afghanistan daily. 

Without enough temporary shelters available to meet demand, many families have had to resort to sleeping outside with no protection whilst they wait to be processed by the authorities, without sufficient food or adequate water and sanitation facilities. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 60% of those arriving in Afghanistan are children. 

We spoke to Khoda, a father with ten children. Born in Pakistan, with no family in Afghanistan to support him, he told us about the worries he has for his family:

We have nothing. There is nowhere. No home for us to live in.

Sustained support to rebuild lives

Our team have been on the ground at the Torkham border crossing, assessing the urgent needs of returnees, and analysing how best to offer effective support to families whose lives have been turned upside down. Returnee families urgently require humanitarian assistance to keep them safe, warm and healthy - including cash for food and rent, tents and shelter equipment, as well as household kits including hygiene and heating equipment for the cold winter season. 

With over 29.2 million people in Afghanistan already in need of humanitarian support, and over 6 million already internally displaced, there is concern that this crisis will further strain the limited resources available in the country.

Another father, Sayed Hussan, spoke to us about what his young family needs:

I plan to enrol my children in school, and I will work to earn money. I don't have any land, no home, no shelter, no blankets, no money... My children are small, we need money to rent a place for my family. I am happy that I came to Afghanistan, but I will need support to make a life here.

When processed, many families returning to Afghanistan aim to return to the provinces they or other family members have originated from. To ensure these households are able to reintegrate smoothly into these communities and build new lives, they will require longer-term support from NGOs across Afghanistan. This will include finding accommodation, providing basic services and generating livelihoods. For some households, they will need assistance starting a new life in a place they have never been before.

We urgently call upon the Pakistani government to completely and immediately cease the forced removals of vulnerable families without "legal documentation." Often having fled conflict, natural disasters and other deeply insecure environments, many Afghans in Pakistan first entered the country as many international resettlement schemes stipulate that they must apply for visas from a "third country", such as Pakistan. It is therefore imperative that nations with resettlement schemes for Afghan nationals expedite the swift and safe resettlement of eligible families, so they do not face displacement and insecurity yet again.

Additionally, the Pakistani authorities have confirmed that they are charging many of these refugees with an $830 'exit fee' by, a move which further exacerbates the challenges experienced by vulnerable refugees in the country, and diminishes their ability to afford food and vital necessities throughout the winter months.

We need your help

In 1983, Afghanaid was formed as an organisation in Peshawar, Pakistan to provide support for Afghan refugees fleeing conflict, and the organisation has provided support to displaced Afghans ever since. At this difficult time, where Afghanistan is still reeling from the effects of successive deadly earthquakes and an ongoing humanitarian crisis, your donations help us to continue to find sustainable solutions to ensure Afghan men and women can keep working towards a more secure future for themselves and their families.

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