Deported Afghan refugees grapple have ‘little resources’ during winter: WFP

Undocumented Afghan refugees, expelled by Pakistan, are confronting a harsh winter with minimal resources, said Hsiao-Wei Lee, the Country Director of the World Food Program.

Last month, Islamabad declared its intention to deport over a million undocumented refugees, primarily Afghans, amid a diplomatic dispute with the Taliban over allegations of harboring anti-Pakistan militants.

“They return to Afghanistan at the worst of times, with no food, few resources, and nowhere to go. It is particularly dire as the harsh Afghan winter is only weeks away, and the country is still reeling from devastating earthquakes, a battered economy, and a worsening climate crisis,” emphasized Hsiaowei Lee, AFP Country Director in Afghanistan.

Since October 1, over 370,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan, returning to a nation grappling with an impending winter, rocked by numerous natural disasters, and facing a reduction in humanitarian aid.

Shahid Khan, an Afghan deportee who had lived in Pakistan for 14 years, revealed, “We lived for 14 years in Pakistan. And then everyone was in a hurry to leave and running. The authorities didn’t even let us keep our papers.”

Another deportee, Ajmal, echoed the sentiment, stating, “The authorities only gave us two hours to leave the country, so we packed our belongings onto the truck and left as quickly as possible.”

As temperatures drop to -4°C (24.8°F), some deported individuals are forced to live in tents, intensifying the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Pakistan currently hosts over 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, with approximately 1.7 million of them being undocumented. Many arrived after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in 2021, and a significant number have been present since the 1979 Soviet invasion.