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Returning Afghan Refugees Face a Difficult Life

Many of the tens of thousands of people returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support and no home. International aid agencies say they and the government are unable to help many of them.

Hadeesa is one of those who has returned, along with her family. She is 14 years old, but she appears older. She cares for her mother, who is ill, and for her younger brother. He is abused at the place where he works. Her father and other family members together earn less than $40 a month. They must pay half of that to the owner of the house in which they live.

"We only eat bread with tea, and pay rent. We cannot afford anything else."

Hadeesa is one of more than 70,000 refugees who have returned to Afghanistan this year from Pakistan. Her mother says she does not know how they will survive.

"Because of migration, our life has gone from bad to worse. In Pakistan, we were in trouble due to a lack of legal documents. Here, we have no money."

Pakistan began taking action against undocumented Afghan refugees after an attack on a school in which 150 people were killed, most of them children.

Mathew Graydon works at the International Organization of Migration (IOM.) He says aid agencies and the Afghan government were not prepared for the large increase in the number of people returning to the country.

“So this has caused a major strain on the resources of the government and IOM to provide assistance to these people.”

Many of the families that have returned to Afghanistan had been living in Pakistan for many years. Some of the children in those families were born in Pakistan. They have never been to Afghanistan. The families return to communities where they often do not know many people. Many arrive with just the clothes they are wearing.

Conflict deeply affects the areas with the most returnees, such as Kunhar and Kunduz provinces. Because of that, many refugees cannot go to their family villages. They become internally displaced.

The lack of funding means only those most in need are given help by the government or aid agencies. The rest, like the family VOA spoke with, must find food and shelter by themselves.

For the refugee family we spoke with, life in Pakistan was difficult. But it is much worse in Afghanistan. And they do not believe it will change.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem reported this story from Kabul. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it into VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

undocumented – adj. not having the official documents that are needed to enter, live in or work in a country legally

strain – n. a feeling of stress and worry that you have because you are trying to do too much or are dealing with a difficult problem

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