Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

AAN in the Media

For Refugees, Returning to Afghanistan Is Easier Said Than Done

2 min

30 May 2016, The Diplomat

Article in The Diplomat leans heavily on the recent dispatch on refugees and landlessness by AAN’s Jelena Bjelica:

Unfortunately, those that return to Afghanistan are still in for considerable uncertainty. In a recent report for the Afghanistan Analysts Network, Jelena Bjelica dives into why many Afghan returnees remain landless, despite several laws and initiatives that aim to provide or return land to them. There has never been a calm moment in the past several decades to sort out ownership of land and during that time laws and norms have changed, resulting in a confused mess. For example, Bjelica writes “Although the recovery of property was recognized as a right [by the 2001 Decree on the Dignified Return of Refugees], in practice, many returnees found they could not just walk in and reclaim their original houses and farms. New occupants often held documents supporting their own claim to the property.” In fact, the 2001 decree “revoked all land rights people had gained through the land reforms in the 1970s and 1980s.” Lack of documentation and conflicting claims is one problem; another is that many refugees never had land to begin with.

Subsequent decrees included a system to allocate land to returnees, but the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation has been mired by corruption and incompetence and as Bjelica writes “The implementation of the land allocation scheme was far from smooth.” (Check out the full report for just how badly mismanaged this scheme has been.)

By 2014, of the estimated 2 million Afghan returnees eligible, only 266,000 had applied for land and only 57,500 plots had been allocated (fewer still had received deeds or actual occupied the land granted). Notably, Bjelica points out that the Afghan government has never considered a public housing option in urban areas–the land offered through the allocation scheme is all in rural areas, often without access to basic services, let alone jobs. Returning to Afghanistan and restarting life there is not easy, even for those who wish to do so.