Up to half a million families in Afghanistan are 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 return should be 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, NRC 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.