The lack of information and data on Afghan migration has previously been a hindrance to sound policy making. Mobility is an essential aspect of Afghan history, including migration for both seasonal and permanent employment and, at times, to seek refuge. Afghans have been migrating for centuries, primarily to neighbouring countries Iran and Pakistan, although more recently further afield, including to North America, the European Union and Australia. The first large wave of modern outmigration from Afghanistan caused by the Soviet invasion in 1979, saw migrants welcomed by Iran and Pakistan. By the influx of 1990 however, Afghans were no longer welcome, and that same year the first voluntary repatriation programme from Pakistan was established. Towards the beginning of 2002, UNHCR began its assisted voluntary return programme for Afghan migrants living in Iran and Pakistan. By the end of September 2002, more than 1.5 million had returned from Pakistan and more than 220,000 from Iran. Of these, most returnees moved to urban areas.
- Seasonal and temporary migration occurs to Iran and Pakistan as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council States and other countries.
- Labour migration returnees are increasing; primarily returning from Iran and Pakistan. These return households are economically worse off than repatriating refugee households, suggesting that their low economic status is a driver for the recent migration and returns.
- Although there is no official circular migration programmes there is evidence of circularity in migration and return flows. Analysis of the labour migration movements between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran illustrate circularity in movement that is irregular and undocumented.
Forced Migration of Afghans occurs largely due to natural disasters and conflict
- Recent estimates put the number of IDPs in Afghanistan at 400,000, of whom 300,000 are being assisted by UNHCR (UNHCR, 2011a).
- Large amounts of asylum-seekers and refugees in neighbouring countries as well as Europe, the US, etc.
- Trafficking of persons, especially children, either within Afghanistan for labour and the sex industry, or in significant numbers to Iran and Pakistan.
- Between 2008 and 2010, 1,500 Afghan nationals were refused entry to the European Union along the border, the majority of who were rejected along Italy’s border.
- In this time period 140,940 Afghans were counted in different European countries. The main destination countries of irregular Afghan immigrants in Europe now include France, Greece, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Austria
- Unaccompanied minors: many families use smugglers to ensure that their child makes it to Europe (in 2010: 4,425).
- Since 2002, return migration to Afghanistan has been significant with over six million people returning to the country, the majority of which are repatriating refugees from Pakistan and Iran.
- Over the past ten years, however, these flows have changed from repatriating refugees returning to current forms of return and circular migration for labour purposes.
- Not all Afghans returning to Afghanistan do so voluntarily, however, as forced returns or deportations from Iran, Europe or Australia occur on an on-going basis.
- The largest numbers of forced returns are recorded from Iran to Afghanistan. In total in 2011, 211,023 deportations were recorded from Iran, which averages at 578 deportations per day.
Afghanistan does not report data on remittances to the IMF, though the World Bank estimates that 15% of rural households in Afghanistan receive remittances from abroad, covering around 20% of the family’s daily expenditure.
- A 2007 report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development estimated remittances to Afghanistan in 2006 at USD 2.5 billion, accounting for 29.6% of Afghanistan’s total GDP at that time.
- UN report: Afghanistan-bound remittances from Iran alone amounted to USD 500 million annually, equivalent to 6% of Afghanistan’s GDP in December 2008.
- Over 31% of all Afghan households are estimated to receive remittances from Iran or Pakistan.
- The annual value of remittances sent from the United States and Canada is also significant – possibly as high as USD 75 million. In 2008, EUR 79,664 in remittances was sent to Afghanistan from the Netherlands, and in 2004 EUR 22 million from Germany. These figures are all estimates, however, due to a lack of concrete data.
- Most prominent way to send remittances are hawala dealers, traditional financial service providers who enable remittance transfer through a trust-based network of agents. Money transfers sent via hawala are generally more affordable than those sent through other remittance channels, and the traditional reliance on hawala has cultivated a large consumer base.
- The development of mobile banking and mobile remittance transfer capabilities via SMS makes Afghanistan stand out as one of very few countries that have invested in innovative remittance solutions that increase the formal financial network while potentially strengthening financial and communication infrastructures.
Several initiatives have been put forward recently to help remedy this lack of information. For more information see:
- Afghanistan migration profile page:http://mgsog.merit.unu.edu/research/IOM_afganistan_migration_profile.php
- IS Academy on Migration and Development page:http://mgsog.merit.unu.edu/ISacademie/
- Upcoming Afghan migration event:http://mgsog.merit.unu.edu/permalink.php?id=845