Afghan refugees  returning from Iran stop in a transit camp set up by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on the edge of Kabul, Afghanistan where they recieve medical and monetary assistance   before they return home  August 10, 2002. Children were being vaccinated for measels and adults were given $10 to complete their long journey home. (photo by Ami Vitale)

Over 1 million Afghan refugees have returned to their country of origin. This is the largest influx of refugees returning to Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fell in 2011. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), one-fifth of refugees returned involuntarily from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

As security deteriorated last year, more than 200,000 Afghans left their country and headed for Europe, thus leading to the largest post-Taliban mass emigration.  While many Afghans continue to leave their country, the number of those returning home has increased significantly. Moreover, the fighting between the Taliban and the government has already internally displaced more than 1 million Afghans.


“[The influx] makes a very large figure for a country which is in a volatile situation when it comes to security and also in terms of economic opportunities for those to be reabsorbed in a very short time.”

– Laurence Hart, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Kabul


After four decades of conflict, Afghanistan remains one of the main sources of refugees in the world. Approximately 5 million Afghan refugees are living in Iran and Pakistan.  IOM data show that Iran has deported 174,000 Afghans this year, while 22,000 were displaced from Pakistan. Moreover, almost 600,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan are expected to return to their country of origin by March 2017. Pakistan’s justification has primarily been in economic terms; however, there is also political motivation, as tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have grown in the wake of the May killing of the Taliban leader in Pakistan.

The returnees, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, will settle in provinces where fighting has been prevalent – from Helmand to Nangarhar.  The uncertain situation and inability of the Afghan government to provide necessary recourses for the returnees are clear signs of a growing humanitarian crisis.