Photo: OCHA Afghanistan

UN Contributes $3.8 Million to Support Afghan Returnees from Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has contributed $3.8 million to support Afghan returnees from Pakistan.

The World Food Program (WFP) stated in a statement that the contribution would enable the organization to provide cash assistance to nearly 33,000 families or more than 230,000 people returning from Pakistan.

In October, the Pakistan caretaker government announced a plan known as The Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan (IFRP), asking all undocumented immigrants to leave the country or face deportation. Although the plan purported to apply to all foreigners residing in the country illegally, it appears designed to target Afghan refugees, millions of whom have sought refuge in Pakistan over the years. Since then, over half a million immigrants, mostly women and children have been deported to the impoverished Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities claim that undocumented refugees are a major source of insecurity and illegal activities in their country, justifying the crackdown as a counter-terrorism measure. However, the US-based International Crisis Group believes that the mass deportation is primarily driven by Pakistan’s loss of patience with the Taliban regime, rather than any direct threat posed by the immigrants themselves.

The deportation of Afghan immigrants takes place amidst a severe humanitarian crisis in Afghanistann. Deportees arrive with nothing as Pakistani authorities have restricted them to carrying no more than 50,000 Pakistani rupees ($175) each. Humanitarian agencies have reported a shortage of tents and other basic necessities for those returning to Afghanistan.

Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, Head of Office for OCHA Afghanistan, emphasized, “With 500,000 Afghans having returned from Pakistan since last September, the importance of this timely allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund cannot be overstated.”

“In the face of the harsh Afghan winter, coinciding with the lean season and peak food insecurity, this CERF funding is a lifeline for thousands of returnees ensuring their immediate and long-term food needs are met. We remain committed to a sustained effort in supporting the most vulnerable and call for unwavering global solidarity with Afghanistan,” she said.

Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies have been grappling with a funding shortfall for the past two years, as global attention is primarily focused on ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. The UN says that this severe funding shortfall is one of the worst in recent years, significantly hindering the organization’s capacity to deliver aid to the most vulnerable individuals.

Mutinta Chimuka, Deputy Country Director of WFP Afghanistan, highlighted, “With the massive funding shortfalls for humanitarian action in Afghanistan, WFP has been able to respond to new crises only by borrowing from an already underfunded regular programme.”

“Thanks to the contribution from the Central Emergency Response Fund, WFP will be able to support more than 230,000 Afghans forced to return from Pakistan with cash to cover the families’ food needs for one month. This not only gives them the choice but also stimulates local economies by supporting markets and shops,” she added.