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Refugees: no easy return options…

March 30, 2016

Summary: The plight of refugees attempting to return to Afghanistan is exacerbated by highy flawed legal processes hindering the fair reclamation of property and land

refugeesThat the plight of Syrian refugees has bumped the 35 year tragedy of Afghan refugees momentarily off the front pages is much more an indictment of the appalling situation in of Syria than an indication of optimism for Afghanistan.  A useful report from The Diplomat that highlights – with some good references and links – the ongoing difficulties for those Afghan refugees attempting to return to their home country.  Not only is the trauma and worry of return to a war-torn country a significant barrier, but the legal process to enable individuals to reclaim land and property is flawed and corrupt:

Afghan refugees have returned to the headlines as European countries pursue avenues to send many of those waiting for asylum back to Afghanistan. A larger number reside in Pakistan and Iran, where they are stuck in the limbo of refugee camps. Meanwhile, many of those who have already returned remain in a difficult situation, left landless despite laws a decade old geared to helping returnees reclaim their land and schemes designed to allocate land to those who return…Unfortunately, those that return to Afghanistan are still in for considerable uncertainty…many Afghan returnees remain landless, despite several laws and initiatives that aim to provide or return land to them. There has never been a calm moment in the past several decades to sort out ownership of land and during that time laws and norms have changed, resulting in a confused mess.

Jelena Bjelica has produced a very useful and in-depth review of the Afghanistan refugee situation for the Afghanistan Analyst Network:

More than 5.8 million Afghans, about 20 per cent of Afghanistan’s population, are refugees who have returned home since the fall of the Taleban according to UNHCR figures. Many found their houses destroyed or occupied, or discovered that a new set of laws had scrapped their tenancy rights. The government plan for distributing land to them, and to IDPs, is now a decade old, but has been one of the most corrupt and ineffective government schemes.

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