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Humanitarian crises after refugee influx in Nangarhar

Humanitarian crises after refugee influx in Nangarhar

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On
Dec 17, 2016 - 18:48

JALALABAD (Pajhwok): Eighty percent of refugee families who recently returned from Pakistan have been settled in eastern Nangarhar province, officials say, fearing humanitarian crisis after the influx.

Residents, officials and provincial council members say the arrival of a huge number of refugees in Nangarhar has created multiple problems.

Ghulam Haidar Faqiri, the provincial refugees and repatriation director, said more than 560,000 families had returned from Pakistan recently and 80 percent of them were settled in Nangarhar.

“Each family has been provided with necessary assistance including cash amounting $300 and $450 at the Torkham border upon arrival.”

Fariqi said work on a township in Nangarhar for the returnees was underway and some 30,000 families would be distributed plots.

He said the government had started giving 3,500 afghanis per month to each refugee family in cash aid.

He confirmed humanitarian crisis had surfaced in some parts of Jalalabad City, the provincial capital, and districts.

Returnees’ problems and complaints

A large number of refugees have been settled in Gamberi, an area between Laghman and Nangarhar provinces.

Among the refugees is Zarghona, 50, who spent most of her life in Pakistan where they enjoyed facilities like electricity, water and others, but now she is living under a piece of cloth above her head as shelter.

She complained about dirty drinking water, saying her throat got infected after consuming the dirty water supplied to them in tankers.

Behsud district is another area where a large number of such families are settled in farmlands.

Syed Ahmad, originally from Kunar district and currently living in Behsud, said insecurity did not allow him to go to the place of origin.

He said he was living in Behsud because he would not find unemployment and shelter in Kunar.

Concerns of Nangarhar residents

The residents of Nangarhar province are worried about the large number of refugees being settled in the province.

Javedullah, a resident of Zangavi locality, said: “Most people preferred to live near urban areas due lawlessness. There is now more crowded than before and one should wait for hours in vehicle to reach his destination.”

He said he was worried about the increasing home rents and prices of food and other commodities.

Ikramullah, another resident of Behsud district, said 80 percent of farmlands had been sold to refugees for building homes.

He said local residents were constructing residential buildings on their farmlands to sell them or give against rent to refugees.

A number of refugees have been residing in Kama, Shewa and Dara-i-Noor districts. The hustle bustle on the Behsud road has resulted in increasing traffic accidents, he added.

Provincial council members

A number of Nangarhar provincial council members criticized the government for not having a clear management plan for refugees returning to the country. The repatriation of a large number of refugees without a government’s plan has created problems for both local people and the refugees themselves, they said.

Provincial council secretary, Zabihullah Zamarai, told Pajhwok that a proper plan was needed for management of returning refugees, a capacity he said Nangarhar lacked.

Residences, health, education and other basic problems of refugees remained unsolved, he said.

Humaira Rafi, another member of the council, also said the government should have had devised a clear plan for returning refugees and should have constructed townships for them and created and job opportunities before they returned.

Currently the refugees reside in ruined houses or deserts, multiplying the crisis.

Soaring prices of construction materials

The prices have increased and crowds in markets doubled with the returning refugees, but rates of food items remain unchanged.

Haji Maliar, owner of a brick kiln in Ahmadzai area of Sara Rod district, confirmed the price of bricks had increased.

He said coal and food prices had also increased and his workers now demanded more salary after the arrival of the large number of refugees.

A cement seller in Jalalabad city said the price of one bag of cement increased by 50 Pakistani rupees due to its high demand.

Shamsulhaq, a resident of Behsud district, who was constructing his home, said the price of one truck of construction rocks increased from 1,400 Pakistani rupees to 3,000 Pakistani rupees.

Solutions to problems and suggestions

Asadullah Larawai, a civil society activist, said refugees returning from Pakistan chose Nangarhar due to its better security.

But he said the government should have built a specific residential place for the refugees so that they created no security challenges and rather inhabited on unused lands.

The refugees should have been shifted to their own provinces and areas after returning to the country, he said.

Dr. Niamatullah Hamdard, Civil Society and Human Rights Network head, also said that the government should pay attention to the returnees.

He said the government lacked organized plans for both the returnees and internally displaced families.

Responses by authorities

The Jalalabad Mayor says the massive influx of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan and their settling in Jalalabad city has contributed to urban disorder, overcrowding and others.

Hamidullah said they were working jointly with the Refugees and Repatriation Department to devise construction plans for several townships.

He also assured of expanding roads in the city and said roads would be extended to the 6th, 7th and 8th municipal districts of the city.

Traffic officials say the refugees coming to Jalalabad has created problems as well.

Traffic director Sayed Hamidullah Sadat said Jalalabad was not wide enough and was made for only 60,000 population. He said more people internally displaced had migrated to the city. “We have no idea how to solve the issue.”

Local residents say they are worried about further insecurity with the arrival of so many refugee families. However, police claim no incident of security involving refugees has occurred so far.

Nangarhar police spokesman, Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, said the police department had planned special security measures for the returning refugees and had deployed detective units at the Torkham border-crossing.

Nangarhar labour and social affairs department head Abdul Hakeem Shirzad said the Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan and internally displaced people stationed in Jalalabad and nearby areas sough jobs.

All Afghanistan Federation of Trade Unions (AFFTU) head, Dr. Mohammad Liaqat Adil, also confirmed the refugees’ returning had increased unemployment level across the country.

He said earlier the unemployment rate was 50 percent and now the percentage had increased, with Nangarhar’s people bearing the brunt of the situation.

According to Adil, earlier laborers used to wait until noon in search of work; but now they waited until afternoon with no sign of work.

Nangarhar education officials also said the returnees had affected the education process in the province.

Education Department spokesman, Mohammad Asif Shinwari, said nearly 33,000 repatriated students had been so far enrolled at schools in Surkhrod, Behsud and Rodat districts and Jalalabad city.

He said based on a letter from the Ministry of Education, the returnee students had been added to classes they abandoned in Pakistan and three months had been set for them to provide documents and certificates.

However, he said, after repeated demand by students, the department presented a new plan to the MoE. The ministry has approved the plan whereby documents of the students would be obtained by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Currently, the repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan has been delayed until February 29, 2017. The process will begin on March 1.

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