Internally displaced, returnees from abroad soar to over 2.4 million in nine Afghan provinces: IOM survey

One in six people is either a returnee or an internally displaced person (IDP) in the nine Afghan provinces of Baghlan, Balkh, Kabul, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar, Paktia, and Takhar, according to the second round of IOM’s Afghan Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) published today (7/7).
In the nine provinces, which are believed to have the highest levels of displacement and return in the country, a total of 2,416,570 individuals either returned from abroad or were internally displaced during the five years between 2012 and June 2017. This represents roughly 20 per cent of the provinces’ total base population of 11,851,822.
The DTM tracks mobility, determines numbers and locations of forcibly displaced people and provides basic demographic information. It aims to explain the reasons behind their displacement and their migration history, as well as their vulnerabilities and priority needs. Its main objective is to provide the government and humanitarian partners with comprehensive data, enabling them to deliver timely, targeted, and cost-effective assistance to conflict and displacement affected populations.
According to the survey, the returnees from abroad included 1,200,721 people from Pakistan and over 222,000 from Iran. Another 41,803 people returned from Europe, including Turkey.
Many returned to extreme poverty and some 73,850 returnees are now living in tents or open air holes dug into the ground and covered by tarpaulins. Many others rent or live in semi-ruined, abandoned houses. With 518,066 individuals returning between 2012 and 2017, Nangarhar has the highest number of returnees.
The survey also identified a total of 945,182 IDPs in the nine provinces assessed. Nearly all of them – 97.38 per cent – had been displaced by conflict. Another 1,141,334 people had returned to their homes. Some 658,743 individuals had been forced to leave their settlements and had fled to another district or province.
The provinces also experienced outward migration during the period. Some 454,054 individuals or four per cent of the population left Afghanistan and have not returned. Of these, 105,218 or 23 per cent migrated to Europe, including Turkey. Another 82,984 moved to Pakistan and 52,497 to Iran.
“Displacement management is a major challenge for any country with a large number of displaced people. The DTM helps the government and humanitarian actors to identify areas of high return and migration movements in each province. But it can also deliver specific information on protection risks at the community level,” said IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission Laurence Hart.
The new survey follows a first round of data collection conducted January–March 2017 in the three eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, and Kunar. The DTM project was launched in response to dramatic rises in returns from neighbouring countries, as well as increasing internal displacement. Between January 2016 and June 2017 over 915,000 undocumented Afghans returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan, and over 807,400 were internally displaced by conflict.

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