Voluntary return to Afghanistan from Pakistan refers to the process of individuals choosing to go back to their home country, Afghanistan, from Pakistan without any external pressure or coercion. This can include Afghan refugees or migrants who have been residing in Pakistan and decided to return voluntarily.
The voluntary return process is often facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations. They provide assistance and support to individuals who wish to return, including transportation, documentation, and reintegration support in Afghanistan.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has released a guide for Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan who wish to voluntarily return to Afghanistan. The guide provides important information about the voluntary repatriation process, including key messages, non-return advisory, voluntary returns, and available assistance for voluntary repatriation under the UNHCR program. The guide emphasizes that the decision to return is fully voluntary and informed, and refugees should have adequate information about the conditions in their intended destination in Afghanistan before making a decision. The guide also outlines the benchmarks that must be met for UNHCR to facilitate returns to Afghanistan.
It is worth noting that UNHCR has advised states to suspend the forcible return of Afghan nationals to Afghanistan following the events in August 2021. While UNHCR respects the decision of individual Afghans to return home, certain benchmarks must be met. These include voluntary and well-informed choice, absence of significant protection concerns in the intended return location, assurance of dignity during the return and reintegration process, absence of exploitative arrangements, and adherence to the principles of family unity and the best interests of the child.
Eligibility for UNHCR Support
All registered Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan holding a Proof of Registration (PoR) card issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with an expiry date of 31 December 2015 are eligible to repatriate with UNHCR’s assistance. Afghans who hold no PoR card or only an expired one, are not entitled to any return assistance from UNHCR. Afghans who have already received UNHCR’s assistance to repatriate in previous years will not receive cash assistance again. For eligibility:
- Afghan refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are eligible for support in voluntary return.
- Afghan refugees holding only a Refugee Identity Card issued by UNHCR and no PoR card, who wish to return with UNHCR’s assistance, should contact UNHCR at the below given helpline numbers for information before approaching the Voluntary Repatriation Centre.
- Family members who are not already registered and cannot be added to the PoR database can nonetheless repatriate with their family. However, they will not receive any assistance from UNHCR.
The UNHCR guide does not specify any particular documents that are necessary for Afghan refugees in Pakistan who wish to voluntarily return to Afghanistan. Nonetheless, all registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan who possess a Proof of Registration (PoR) card issued by the Government of Pakistan are eligible to receive assistance from UNHCR to repatriate under the Voluntary Repatriation program to Afghanistan.
According to the UNHCR guide, all registered Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan holding a Proof of Registration (PoR) card issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with an expiry date of 31 December 2015 are eligible to repatriate with UNHCR’s assistance. Refugees who desire to return to Afghanistan should have the below documents:
- Passport or Afghan Tazkira (National ID)
- Proof of refugee status (UNHCR registration card)
- Pakistani visa or valid travel document
- Proof of residency in Pakistan (rental agreement, utility bills, etc.)
Before Deciding to Return
When considering returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan, it is essential to assess both countries' current security situation and political developments. Check the latest travel advisories from your home country's government and reputable organizations like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). You are advised to consider below points:
- Assess the security situation in your intended destination in Afghanistan.
- Consider the availability of basic services, such as healthcare, education, and livelihood opportunities.
- Consult with UNHCR or relevant organizations for information on the return process and available support.
Before Return to Afghanistan
To return to Afghanistan from Pakistan, ensure you have the necessary travel documents, such as a valid passport, visa, and ID card. Check the current travel restrictions and visa requirements between the two countries before your trip. Additionally, consider checking with airlines for any flight restrictions or changes in policy. It is important to be aware of the current situation in both countries and to take necessary precautions for your safety. Best practice before return:
- Gather and check your documents.
- Contact UNHCR or the nearest Voluntary Repatriation Centre to inform them about your decision to return.
- Attend a pre-departure counseling session organized by UNHCR to understand the return process, potential challenges, and available support.
Getting a Vehicle
The UNHCR provides assistance to Afghan refugees who wish to voluntarily return to Afghanistan from Pakistan. The organization provides a range of services, including transportation, cash assistance, and reintegration support, to help refugees return safely and rebuild their lives in their home country. If you are an Afghan refugee in Pakistan and wish to return to Afghanistan voluntarily, you can contact the UNHCR for more information on the process and available support.
Returnees could face problems with Afghan or Pakistani authorities if the lorries they use are transporting illegal items. Returnees should therefore ask drivers to carry only returnees’ belongings. Please note that returning families have to make personal arrangements for transport. Repatriating families are advised to hire only vehicles, which have proper documents, and drivers, who have valid licenses and permits for travel inside Afghanistan. Refugees should keep in mind that:
- UNHCR may provide transportation assistance for vulnerable individuals or families.
- Contact UNHCR or the Voluntary Repatriation Center to inquire about available transportation options.
- If transportation assistance is not available, you can explore local transportation services or public transport options.
UNHCR Contact in Pakistan
If you are an Afghan refugee in Pakistan and wish to voluntarily return to Afghanistan, you can visit the Voluntary Repatriation Center (VRC) in Baleli, Quetta. Prior to your arrival, it is important to schedule an appointment by calling +92 333-0792974. The VRC operates from Monday to Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.
For those Afghans seeking specific information, "Beporsed" is here to help. You can reach our information center through WhatsApp (+93729807235), Facebook Messenger, or our website's Messenger to ask our online information desk officer for assistance.
For more information
For more information on immigration, resettlement, education and scholarship programs, and other opportunities available to Afghans worldwide, as well as details on the humanitarian services provided by international organizations in Afghanistan and procedures for obtaining civil documents from governmental institutions, please visit Beporsed's website and social media pages.