Refugees: Afghanistan’s “Achilles heel”

Sunday, 14 January 2018 03:28 Written by  Heart of Asia Read 832 times

Afghan refugees, who have been forced by the unending conflict and other problems to leave the country for foreign countries, have turned into a “weak spot” for Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and Iran, against all international conventions, have long been using Afghan refugees as a tool to protect their interests.  Pakistan is recruiting people from among these refugees to fight in Afghanistan, while Iran has even formed a proxy force called ‘Liwa Fatemiyoun’ or Fatemiyoun Division, of which, according to Iranian officials, more than 2,000 fighters have so far been killed, and as many as 8,000 more wounded in Syria and Iraq. 

 

In addition to using Afghan refugees as proxy forces, Pakistan and Iran are using them as a pressure tool against Afghanistan. Whenever their relations with Afghanistan get strained, they callously begin to expel and put screws on Afghan refugees. 

As a knee-jerk reaction to the mounting pressure from the United States for its support to terrorists, Pakistan has once again turned to that policy by giving Afghan refugees until January 31 to leave the country. Kabul has launched new efforts to convince Islamabad to extend the deadline, but for how long the refugees will be used as Afghanistan’s soft spot. 

 

The problem with this deadline is that weather in Afghanistan gets very cold in February, March and April, and most of the refugees returning the country have no shelter so if that happens, there will definitely be a tragedy. Furthermore, the existence of a huge number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country has already posed a great challenge to the government; therefore, the return of more refugees can lead to a full-scale humanitarian crisis. 

An urgent solution, with the mediation of international organizations, should be sought to prevent the forced return of Afghan refugees in the cold winter. Since the issue of Afghan refugees has been a long-running challenge, it requires more time to tackle, but it should be a priority for the government. Taking into account the role of Afghan refugees in Afghan conflict, as well as the fact that they are used as a pressure tool by the neighboring countries against Afghanistan, the government should work to resolve the problem once and for all.