Posted by: bklunk | March 6, 2007

Sometimes You Can’t Go Home Again

Two decades ago, UNHCR’s approach tended to favor refugees settling in new countries. Recently, the goal has changed to repatriation, looking for ways to return refugees to their home countries.

The long Trek Home « International Relations

The Refugee Camp

On a momentous move the UNHCR plans on returning 250,000 refugees back to their home land on Afghanistan according to the Dawn News Service. This is a great start on the repatriation of those individuals who have been with out homes for so long. Unfortunately this number of repatriations pales in comparison with the number of refugees still living abroad in Iran and Pakistan. According to the UNHCR report on Afghan refugees there are just about a million Afghans living in each of those countries. There are even more refugees living abroad in other countries including Germany, the U.K. and Canada.

The return of the refugees to their homeland is a symbolic step in showing the security of their homeland. While conflict may still rage on in some parts of the country it is deemed safe enough to begin the process of repatriation. Of course the number of people being returned to their homeland is insignificant to the number that remain abroad, but the fact of the matter is they are steadily being returned.

You can see how slow the process of repatriation is by examining the UNHCR report which includes the refugee spread sheet. Out of 10,000 refugees that were brought to the U.S only three were returned to Afghanistan in 2005.

Of course at the end of 2005 populations of refugees in other States such as Iran saw a sharp decrease in numbers, from the initial number of 952,802 which declined to 662,355 refugees living in the State.

The UNHCR is part of the UN, which is a IGO (Intergovernmental Organization). Since this is the case all decisions are based on policies and bureaucratic measures that dictate how many will have to leave, stay, and any logistical issues that come up with sustaining large populations of refugees. This means that it will be a very slow process that may never be complete as UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond says “This displacement has been going on for two decades or more and many of the Afghans in neighbouring countries are integrated in local society, they have businesses or jobs and families”

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  1. The fact that these people are slowly being given a chance to return home to Afghanistan is an improvement to say the least. I could not imagine having to flee your country and leave behind your home, basically all of your belongings, and move on into the unknown. In my opinion, these people are awe-inspiring in terms of their fortitude and courage. I think an issue that will arise as some countries work to return the refugees to their homeland however, is that many of these people, as the article says, may have been living in other countries for over a decade. After that amount of time away from home it is expected that some of them may already feel settled again. With such large numbers of Afghans displaced around the world, you would have to expect that they have become a part of another countries economy in terms of jobs and housing. Some may not want to return to Afghanistan. Some may wish to wait longer until it is more stabilized. It seems hard to fathom the amount of time it will take to return all of these people to their country. However, it is good news in terms of the world scene. I am sure that it is also very good news to many Afghans as well. After years of instability, they have a chance to return to their homeland and make new memories in a place, that to some, must seem so far away.

  2. Afghanistan has been in turmoil for many many years, and is still far from being a well-functioning country, but the fac that the Afghan people are being given the opportunity to move back is a big-baby step. I also think that the Afghan people have been through so much in having to flee their country, and move somewhere else, and have to try to re-establish themselves.

    Dut to the fact that so many of the Afghan people are spread through out the world, and have now lived in another culture for as long as a decade, they might not want to go back to Afghanistan. Some people might like where they are living now because it is better than Afghanistan. Or another situation, some of the people might want to go back to Afghanistan because they missed their country, but when they get back it might be different, and then they would be dissatisfied.

    However like I mentioned earlier, this is a good big-baby step. Perhaps Afghanistan is on the slow path back to stability.

  3. The issues of refugees in general seems to be much more complicated then the idea implies; what I mean by that is that there are a great many issues that are not black and white. The first grey area comes from the idea of “safety” in Afghanistan. The country has been deemed safe enough for refugees to return, but is that really the case? How is the decision being evaluated? Has a decades and centuries long conflict seen a year, or perhaps less, of peace? Does that provide a qualifier for safety? A period of relative calm after a long storm, or is that just the eye of the storm overhead? I do not mean to say that the conflicts there are going to rise up again in the next week or maybe even the next month; but rather when the issue of hundreds of thousands of peoples lives are at stake maybe their needs to be a bit deeper look into what really qualifies as “safety”. The second large grey area is pointed at in the last line of the article, some of these refugees have been in other countries for over a decade; they have families now, businesses, friends, and they are vested in the communities they live in. It may be fair to say that a large number of these refugees may want to return home, but is that the case for all of them? A second forced move of the refugees might not be what is best for them; that is if we care what is indeed best for them.

    Refugee caries with it a great many concerns, I have only addressed two of those issues but in my opinion these are two of the most prominent issues regarding the situation if we are at all concerned with the well being of the individual.

  4. I think it’s important that the refugees slowly return to Afghanistan, but I’m not sure I believe it’s really the safest place for them. There is still so much danger there that returning now seems foolish. I think it would be best if they stayed abroad until the fighting is over. The countries that are hosting the refugees surely can handle them for a while longer. I just don’t see a reason for them to be returning now. I think if they were to return anytime soon at all that it should be done slowly and only in areas that they can be assured safety. I think moving so many people back to Afghanistan is tricky, and comes with all sorts of complications. I would really give it more time to see how the area is doing in a few months, in regards to safety and stability, before moving any of the refugees back.
    The article mentions that only three out of 10,000 refugees in the United States were sent back to Afghanistan. I question why it is only three. Why move any back if it’s only three? Surely the ones remaining here are in a better position than if they moved back to Afghanistan. I think that since there’s still a large concern for safety no refugees should be moved back soon.

  5. In the long run, I too believe that the Afghan refugees should be returned to their homeland safely and securely and with the opportunity to regain what was once theirs. However at this time, it does not seem like the safest option laid out on the table. Although the UNHCR wants to see a faster repatriation process, I don’t believe it is the best idea at the moment. With the Taliban increasing their resistance, the notion of moving families back into “battle” like territory may seem quite foolish. If they feel safer or more stable living in a neighboring country, I don’t think anyone could blame them, or should force them to leave.
    As the article mentioned … “out of 10,000 refugees that were brought to the U.S only three were returned to Afghanistan in 2005”…this obviously shows that the refugees are happy living in a foreign nation, or have decided to stay and settle themselves in. Therefore I say the international community should be more focused on stabilizing the region first, and then follow with a slow but long-term resolution of allowing Afghan citizens to return safely to what they once called home, rather than a rushed “unsafe” option at the moment.

  6. This is a very complicated issue with a lot of grey area. I agree that in the long run it is best that people be returned to their homeland, with the opportunity to regain some form of regular life in their homeland. The grey area occurs when their are refugees who may not want to return because either they feel its too dangerous for their family and their ability to live the life they want to live, or want to provide for their children. There is also the point that many may want to go back because they have become accustomed to their new homes and simply want to stay there. I agree also that it does seem foolish to force people to move back into a unstable, dangerous place before the area is ready. However it may be beneficial for the country to have their refugees come back, because they may provide that stability that the area needs. Thats why this issue could really go either way and that only the people in this area of the world, or people that are familiar with the region, should make this decision. It’s just tough to know what the right thing is to do without first-hand experience of the current situation. It definately is a positive step though and represents progress in some degree.

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