The Government of Australia and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) have launched a two-year, AUD 4 million (USD 3 million) project to assist undocumented Afghans in their host communities in Pakistan, as well as those who wish to return to Afghanistan.

In 2016, an unprecedented number of Afghans returned to Afghanistan, mainly from Pakistan and Iran. They included over 250,000 undocumented returnees and over 380,000 registered refugees. This year, as of 20 June, over 100,000 Afghans have returned home, including almost 70,000 undocumented returnees from Pakistan. This is a 250 per cent increase over the number of returnees during the first six months of 2016.

Australia’s contribution will enable IOM and its partners to help the Government of Pakistan develop sustainable solutions for the estimated 500,000–600,000 Afghan nationals still living in Pakistan.

This new Australian funding will also help IOM and its partners monitor migration flows and conduct host community surveys. The resulting data will in turn aid the Pakistani and Afghan Governments, humanitarian stakeholders and returning communities to make better informed decisions relating to safe and humane migration.

IOM Pakistan will also use the funding to provide primary health care services and vocational business training for undocumented Afghans and host communities in Pakistan. This will enable them to start new livelihoods and reintegrate when they return to Afghanistan, as well as provide new economic opportunities for host communities.

The funding will also help IOM support the Government of Pakistan to implement its Repatriation and Management Policy for Afghan Refugees, which includes the registration of undocumented Afghans living in Pakistan.

“IOM is fully committed to support tailored solutions for undocumented Afghans in Pakistan,” said Davide Terzi, IOM Pakistan Chief of Mission. “Pakistan has been host to millions of Afghans for over 30 years, and it is imperative to devise comprehensive programmes that facilitate returns, create viable options for those who decide to stay, and support the Pakistani host communities.”

As part of the IOM Regional Response Strategy, IOM Pakistan is seeking USD 21 million to support the most vulnerable undocumented Afghans during 2017–2018.