Decades of Displacement

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2048

Text and Photo by Matiullah Achakzai

 

: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
As European Union grapple with the refugee crisis in the wake of Syrian conflict, with EU calling for enforcement of refugee quotas to distribute the burden of refugees, let’s spare a thought for the world of the largest refugee crisis in the world – that of Afghan refugees. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
A refugee child walking barefoot in a dusty, mud settlement on the fringes of the border town of Chaman. Pakistan hosts almost 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees that, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, is still the largest protracted refugee population globally. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
An Afghan refugee family outside Chaman. Most Afghans have been living in refugee camps turned into mud settlements and villages over the decades. These can still be seen in the bordering provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan where refugees were originally settled in camps. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
A elderly Afghan refugee sitting outside his mud-shop weaving rugs out of wool. The first influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan began in the wake of Russian intervention and Afghan Jihad in early 80s. Since then, Pakistan has hosted approximately 4 m refugees over the decades of conflict and the protracted humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
A truck piled with the belongings of an Afghan family returning to Afghanistan. Since 2002, UNHCR has facilitated the return of 3.8 million registered Afghans from Pakistan through its voluntary repatriation programmer. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah AChakzai
Afghan man outside a shop in a refugee settlement in Chaman, soaking sun. The Government of Pakistan has extended Afghan refugees’ Proof of Registration (PoR) cards – that allows Afghans in Pakistan to stay here legally – until the end of 2015, issued birth certificates for 800,000 Afghan refugee children, provided land for several refugee villages, and given refugees access to public schools and health clinics. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
An Afghan family crossing the Friendship Gate at the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman to return to Afghanistan. In August 2015, Kabul asked Islamabad to extend stay for Afghan refugees in Pakistan for another two years. While Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan have turned sour and its policy towards Afghan refugees harsh in the wake of the incident at Army Public School in Peshawar where more than 140 children for which it blames terrorists based in Afghanistan, with recent reports suggesting that Pakistan is deporting Afghans, Pakistani officials who participated in the meeting said Islamabad will not forcibly expel Afghan refugees but encourage them to return voluntarily. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
An iris detection centre in Chaman used for refugee verification. Under a new strategy, Pakistan will document unregistered Afghan refugees. The unregistered refugees will not be entitled to Proof of Registration cards once documented. They will be issued passports by the government of Afghanistan to allow them to stay in Pakistan. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
An Afghan at his shop in a refugee settlement in Chaman’s outskirts. After a recent tripartite meeting in Kabul in August, Afghanistan’s Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Said Hussain Alimi Balkhi said that the Afghan government will send a 100-member delegation to Pakistan to monitor the documentation of unregistered refugees. They will be deployed at the 21 documentation centres set up to verify the identities of unregistered Afghans. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
In addition to the Afghan refugees, the conflict in Pakistan’s border regions has made homeless thousands of internally displaced people or IDPs. According to UNHCR, by August 2014, there were 714,548 registered IDPs in need of humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing security operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The ongoing North Waziristan military operation that started in June 2014 has further displaced approximately 500,000 people. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan
: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Matiullah Achakzai
Afghan children leaving school at a refugee settlement in Chaman, Pakistan. According to UNHCR, The main groups of people of concern planned for in 2015 under the Pakistan operation include: Afghan refugees, of whom approximately one-third live in refugee villages, and two-thirds in urban and rural host communities; some 7,000 asylum-seekers and individually-recognized refugees from various countries (mostly Afghans), living mainly in urban areas; IDPs, including those relocated by military operations and ethnic/religious conflicts in FATA, and, since the beginning of military operations in June 2014, IDPs from North Waziristan; and three groups presumed to be stateless or at risk of statelessness in Pakistan, namely Bengalis and Biharis, as well as Rohingyas from Myanmar. Photo by Matiullah Achakzai/News Lens Pakistan

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