Assignment 4: Deportations of Afghan Refugees from Pakistan

Afghan Girl, 1984 by Steve McCurry (Wikicommons)

Many have seen the June 1985 National Geographic cover photo by Steve McCurry, featuring a photo of an Afghan refugee on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan. Nearly two decades later, she has been identified as Sharbat Gula, and less than two years ago was deported by the government of Pakistan to her home country of Afghanistan because of a dispute over false identification papers. Sharbat’s story is not unique, as Pakistan, the second largest host of refugees in the world, has ended its decades long policy of granting long-term extensions for Proof of Registration cards.

In response to political tensions between the two nations, Pakistan deported nearly 400,000 Afghans in 2016.  The government in Afghanistan has yet to secure control of volatile regions, and in 2017, the United Nations estimates 360,000 were forced from their homes because of fighting. Of those deported in 2016, 60,000 have returned. Several days ago, the government of Pakistan announced deportations would begin again in 60 days.

While refugees are being forced to return to warlike conditions, mutual benefits do exist for both nations, in the form of economic ties. Remittances are an important economic force that tie civilians living abroad to their families at home. The graph below was created using data compiled by the World Bank, and compares the total remittances sent from Pakistan civilians living in Afghanistan home to Pakistan, and Afghan civilians living in Pakistan home to Afghanistan.

These remittances are an important source of revenue for those living in the neighboring country, and serve as an important reminder of the scale of this issue. The decision to increase deportations affects not only the individuals being deported, but those abroad who rely upon these remittances for financial security.