Up to half a million families in Afghanistan are now facing the prospect of homelessness following increasing pressure from the authorities to return internally displaced people to their areas of origin. Decades of conflict, droughts, political instability and economic collapse have driven displaced Afghans into enclaves around bigger cities that over time have grown into slum-like settlements.
These informal settlements provide shelter and access to humanitarian assistance to some of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable populations, including internally displaced people and returning refugees.
Neil Turner, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Country Director in Afghanistan, said:
“Returning displaced people to remote areas, without their consent, is not possible in a country facing economic collapse, struggling with acute food insecurity and enduring natural disasters. Humanitarian agencies who have remained in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover are currently stretched to respond, and any returns should be conducted in a safe, dignified and informed way.
“Unless good alternatives are secured, the closure of informal settlements puts people who are already struggling to survive at greater risk. They have nowhere to go, and many of those living in the makeshift shelters are highly dependent on humanitarian aid. We are extremely concerned that shutting down these settlements is a recipe for another catastrophe.
“Almost four thousand people have been forced from their makeshift homes just in and around Kabul. If this continues, we will see tens of thousands of people on the move once again, while humanitarian agencies are ill-equipped to respond to yet another wave of displacement.
“NRC calls for an immediate halt of settlement closures in Afghanistan. The Taliban authorities, with the support of the international community, need to urgently work on sustainable solutions for displaced Afghan people, including addressing the economic collapse and the withdrawal of development assistance.”
Facts and figures:
- Many of the people living in these areas tell NRC they have nothing to go back to in their areas of origin. Despite the harrowing conditions they dwell in, they have managed to settle in, find jobs, send their children to school, or gain access to humanitarian assistance.
- In late 2021, the de-facto authorities informed the humanitarian community of their plans to return internally displaced people to areas of origin and close the informal settlements, home to hundreds of thousands of IDPs and returning refugees.
- In Badgis Province in western Afghanistan, eight informal settlements are at imminent risk of closure, a step potentially impacting around 18,000 individuals. In Kabul, the majority of slums are to be shut down.
- Last year 1.3 million people were internally displaced nationwide, due to a combination of conflict and natural disasters. This is unprecedented.
- Over 24 million people - more than half of the Afghan population - need humanitarian assistance to survive. That is an increase of 30 per cent from last year.
- The REACH mid year assessment for Afghanistan indicates a worsening economic situation for Afghans, with households taking on more debt, primarily driven by the need to purchase food amidst rising food prices and shrinking incomes, even as they spend less each month.
- The FAO-WFP have now listed Afghanistan in the top 6 countries that have populations identified or projected to experience starvation or death, or at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions, requiring the most urgent attention.
- The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification indicates that 47% of the population in Afghanistan are facing high levels of acute food insecurity. This is despite substantial humanitarian food assistance that has reached 38% of the population and is now declining since May due to funding constraints.
- NRC has been present in Afghanistan since 2003. We have 1,400 Afghan employees and work in 14 provinces across the country. We assisted over 840,000 people in 2021.
Source: Norwegian Refugee Council