Afghan returnees face depression and isolation back in Afghanistan

Forced returns lead to depression and dreams of re-migration among Afghans, said the Danish Refugee Council’s Mixed Migration Centre.

In its latest report, “Distant Dreams: Understanding the aspirations of Afghan returnees”, the centre revealed that psychological hardships make it significantly more difficult for Afghans to reintegrate and start a new life. The report is based on 56 in-depth interviews with former Afghan migrants and refugees who have returned from Iran, Pakistan and Europe.

“Our research shows that if people have returned due to pressure or force, they are often more traumatised and disillusioned about trying to establish a future for themselves in Afghanistan and more eager to attempt to migrate again,” said Bram Frouws, Head of the Mixed Migration Centre.

For returnees, the report showed that employment and financial security were the most common aspirations, while remigration was a ‘plan B’. Yet, according to the Mixed Migration Centre, many resort to re-migration as their only option.

“For people who have been pressured or forced to return, it often means returning to the exact same conditions that motivated the original journey, for instance personal persecution or economic reasons. On the contrary, voluntary returnees assess that conditions have changed and seem more motivated to build a new future for themselves in Afghanistan,” said Frouws.

Since 2016, 2.4 million Afghans have returned to the country. Some had returned voluntarily, while others by force. Many sustained trauma during their migration and return journeys, and the study said the psychological well-being of migrants and refugees coming back to Afghanistan is connected to their ability and willingness to re-integrate.

Frouws said, “At a time where there is a dominant international policy of hindering migration, and a large number of Afghans are returning either voluntarily or by force, the report is very important in understanding how we ensure conditions to facilitate safe and sustainable returns that don’t force people into displacement again.”

TMP – 22/03/2019

Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock. Refugees and migrants in Greece.