The funding request forms part of the UN’s Flash Appeal for Afghanistan, totaling USD 150 million. IOM will concentrate on scaling up assistance to almost 140,000 undocumented Afghan returnees. It will provide transport vouchers to get them back to their home areas, and relief kits with essential items such as clothing, soap, household items and cooking sets through the IOM Transit Center located at the Torkham border.
A further 4,800 families (some 33,000 people) in the districts surrounding Jalalabad City (which hosts the highest densities of returnees) will be provided with emergency shelter ahead of the winter, including insulated tents, gas heaters and blankets, as well as mobile phones, so that their whereabouts can be confirmed.
From 01 July to 10 September 2016, a total of 109,704 undocumented Afghans returned or were deported from Pakistan through the Torkham border crossing. Of those, 87 percent were spontaneous returnees and the remainder deportees. Up to June, only 33,000 had crossed.
“This massive spike in numbers has set off alarms bells,” said Laurence Hart, IOM’s Chief of Mission and Special Envoy to Afghanistan. “We know there are many demands on the international donor community, but it is clear that if we cannot provide urgent assistance to what is nearly half a million people, then this could rapidly become a humanitarian crisis as winter closes in.”
As a result of growing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, reports show that undocumented Afghan returnee families are facing unprecedented levels of harassment and extortion by local authorities in Pakistan. Families are being forced to sell valuable assets such as houses, businesses and livestock for next to nothing. Children are being thrown out of schools, businesses are being shuttered and Afghans are no longer welcome as daily workers.
IOM anticipates that returns will occur in far greater numbers following the just-completed Eid Al Adha celebrations. A November 15 cut-off date imposed by the Pakistani Government will require all undocumented Afghans to have acquired machine readable passports and valid visas for Pakistan. New figures bear out these concerns – almost 6,000 people returned yesterday alone.