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Afghan Refugees: Current Status and Future Prospects

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Congressional rept.

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR has helped 3.69 million Afghan refugees return to Afghanistan since March 2002, marking the largest assisted return operation in its history. In addition, more than 1.11 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan without availing themselves of UNHCRs assistance, bringing the total number of returnees to at least 4.8 million. Despite the massive returns, possibly 3.5 million registered and unregistered Afghans still remain in two countries of asylum -- up to 2.46 million in Pakistan and more than 900,000 in Iran -- making Afghans the second-largest refugee population in the world. These numbers are far greater than the initial working assumption in 2002 of 3.5 million refugees in fact, the total is believed to be more than 8 million. The United States spent approximately 332.37 million between FY 2002 and FY 2005 on humanitarian assistance to Afghan refugees and returnees through the Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration PRM. It continues to provide support to refugees and returnees. The 110th Congress faces several relevant challenges. The safe and voluntary return of refugees to Afghanistan is not only a major part of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, but also an important indicator of its success. To the extent that refugees continue to return, it can be seen that Afghans are taking part in the future of their country. It is becoming more difficult, however, to encourage refugees to return. Those who were most capable of returning did so in the early years those who remain have progressively less to return to -- houses, livelihoods, family -- in Afghanistan. Furthermore, maintaining the high pace of returns will require greater levels of reintegration assistance to anchor returnees in their homes and help them reestablish their lives in Afghanistan. Security also will be a major factor in population displacement within and across borders.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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