1.5 million Afghans chose to stay back in Pakistan after US pullout

Published July 26, 2022
In this file photo, Afghan people walk inside a fenced corridor as they enter Pakistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border-crossing point in Chaman on August 25, following the Taliban's stunning military takeover of Afghanistan. — AFP/File
In this file photo, Afghan people walk inside a fenced corridor as they enter Pakistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border-crossing point in Chaman on August 25, following the Taliban's stunning military takeover of Afghanistan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan remains the largest refugee-hosting country in Asia and the Pacific as 1.5 million Afghans still prefer to stay in this country, even though one year has elapsed since the US forces beat a hasty retreat from Kabul.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report released on Monday that the number of refugees in Asia-Pacific region grew by 138,400 last year and now stood at 4.2m, or 19 per cent, of the global refugee population. This represents a three per cent increase over 2020.

By Dec 2021, the “Documentation Renewal and Information Verification Exercise” (DRIVE) found there were 1,252,800 registered Afghans, carrying “proof of registration” (PoR) cards, in Pakistan.

A further 129,700 unregistered members of registered families (UMRFs) were awaiting verification at the time of reporting.

According to official estimates, some 250,000 Afghans had entered Pakistan since Aug 2021.

Bangladesh is the second-largest host country with 918,900 refugees, followed by Iran, with 798,300 refugees.

China has over 304,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, over 303,000 Vietnamese among them.

According to the report, 95 per cent of the refugees in Asia Pacific region reside in developing (low- and middle-income) countries, while high-income countries host only five per cent of the displaced persons.

Impact on host nation

Comparing the size of the refugee population with that of the host country, gives a measure of the impact of hosting refugees and the scale of burden.

The number of refugees per 1,000 de facto inhabitants — a Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) complementary indicator — gives a perspective of the scale of burden in host countries.

The Afghan refugee population continues to be the largest in the region and the third largest globally, with 2.7 million refugees hosted by 98 countries.

The numbers grew by almost five per cent (118,000) in 2021, driven by new outflows to neighbouring countries: Pakistan (108,000) and Iran (27,800), as well as newly registered births and new recognitions in Europe (59,100) and Asia-Pacific (6,000).

Myanmar is the second-largest country of origin of refugees in Asia-Pacific and the fifth largest in the world. In 2021, the number of refugees grew by seven percent (73,800) to reach 1.2 million, with more than three quarters of them hosted by Bangladesh.

The increase in 2021 was primarily due to the registration of new births, including the backlog from 2020, as registration resumed after remaining suspended for two years on account of Covid-19.

The number of people displaced inside their own countries due to armed conflict or human rights violations continued to grow in 2021.

By the end of 2021, there were 4.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region, a 23 per cent increase compared to the end of 2020.

In the region, seven countries reported conflict-induced IDPs. Countries with the most conflict-induced IDPs by the end of 2021 were Afghanistan (3.5m), Myanmar (671,000), and the Philippines (105,200).

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2022

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