Forced repatriation to Afghanistan: 'We didn't think it would happen to us' - The Guardian
Afghanistan is starkly different from what Masooma had imagined. She was just a little girl when her family fled the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s. They left everything they owned behind to look for sanctuary in Pakistan and she has few memories of the place.
But when she found out six months ago that her family were going to be forcibly repatriated to a war-torn country her seven children had never set foot in and she had last seen 30 years ago, she tried to stay positive.
“I had always wondered what life in our own country would be like - I looked forward to my homecoming.”'
When her family of 10 finally arrived in Afghanistan, any hope they had died. They were unable to return to the province where Masooma was born due to sustained conflict across the country. With no immediate family in Afghanistan to look out for them and little savings, they ended up in a tented settlement for displaced people. Her children have been out of school for six months as there are no schools near the settlement. Even if there was a school close by, they couldn’t afford the fees, Masooma says, describing how even half a year after returning to Afghanistan her husband has been unable to find work.
The harsh reality is that so many other Afghan refugees are returning from Pakistan the labour market is simply flooded with more people than there are jobs. 250,000 have returned to Afghanistan in the last 10 months.
Her family and other returnees are not the only ones struggling. 600,000 Afghans were internally displaced due to conflict in 2016.
For Matthew Graydon, public information officer at International Organization for Migration (IOM), this should be a clear sign to the Pakistan government that Afghanistan is not safe enough for refugees to be returning. “There are returnees who belong to districts they can’t go back to due to fighting between the Taliban, Daesh and national forces. We are experiencing secondary displacement, or even a third level of displacement,” he explains, adding that fresh conflict is forcing returnee families in some parts of the province to flee the IDP settlements where they previously found sanctuary- Read More