A report by the Danish Refugee Council's (DRC)'s Mixed Migration Centre said circumstances connected to the return of Afghan migrants and refugees to Afghanistan affect their ability and willingness to reintegrate once they are repatriated. According to the report, migrants who returned due to pressure or because they were forced to, face depression, anxiety, a sense of isolation, and stress, together in some cases with the desire to emigrate again. 2.4 million Afghans have returned to their home country since 2016, some voluntarily, others by force. DRC further said the majority were driven by fears of deportation, by uncertain legal status or by economic difficulties. Many have faced traumas during their migration and return journeys.
The report, titled "Distant Dreams - Understanding the aspirations of Afghan returnees," is based on 56 in-depth interviews with former Afghan migrants and refugees who have returned from Iran, Pakistan and Europe. The research is the first to look at returnees' aspirations and hopes for their future and not least the challenges they face when trying to reintegrate.
"Our research shows that if people have returned due to pressure or force, they are often more traumatised and disillusioned about trying to establish a future for themselves in Afghanistan and more eager to attempt to migrate again," said Bram Frouws, who heads the DRC's Mixed Migration Centre. Among the interviewees, employment and financial security were by far the most cited aspirations, while remigration was solely a 'plan B.'
Family support an important factor
The report highlighted that Afghans who return involuntarily and who are in a poor psychosocial state are more likely to see remigration as their only option than those whose return had been their own choice. The DRC's Frouws said although conditions in Afghanistan are difficult for everyone, returnees often face extraordinary challenges including debt, lack of food and shelter as well as poor mental health.
The report suggests that individual circumstances, such as employment, access to housing, basic health care and education, can play a major positive role; family support, however, is the most important factor. Many of those interviewed saw family ties and family members' assistance as much more important than economic incentives.