Almost 40 years ago, Afghans started escaping the viciousness in their country and looking for asylum across their bordering countries. Above over 400,000 individuals fled the brutality of the Communist-led Taraki and Amin government, crossing over into Pakistan. The numbers of people fleeing from Afghanistan dynamically expanded after the Soviet invasion on Christmas Eve in 1979. Before the end of 1980, there were more than 4,000,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Throughout the following four years, that number started multiplying gradually, to the excess of 5,000,000 refugees in Pakistan and Iran.
Afghan refugees represent one of the world’s largest protracted refugee populations. However, most Afghan refugees get forced to return to where they came from. While they have been in Pakistan, Afghan refugees have been allowed to move freely, but have had not many rights. Pakistan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. As a result, Afghan refugees have not been able to access formal education opportunities, to open a bank account, to work, buy a property, and have even been denied access to healthcare.
Despite the security, economic constraints, Pakistan accommodated the Afghan refugees in their homeland due to ideological affinity and humanitarian grounds. In addition to that, last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Afghan refugees would finally be granted citizenship, ending their decades in legal limbo.
18th December is marked as International Migrants Day to educate people on the concern of migration so that they can mobilize political will and resources to address global problems such as migration. Migrants Day highlights that migration should be a choice and not a necessity. The people fleeing from countries devastated by catastrophes should be provided with shelter and also have access to rehabilitation. United Nation’s theme for this year’s International Migrants Day revolves around the concepts of recovery from the pandemic to implement the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, re-imagine human mobility and enable migrants to reignite economies at home and abroad to build more inclusive and resilient societies.