Repatriation and Reconstruction: The Case of Afghanistan
When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, they set in motion a major exodus of refugees. By 1983, an estimated three million refugees had fled to Pakistan, increasing to some 3.27 million over the following seven years. A further 2.9 million had taken refuge in Iran by 1991. The refugees in Pakistan were accommodated in camps along the length of the border. They were provided with tents and some household equipment and had free access to food, health centres and schools in the camps. They were also permitted to seek employment within Pakistan, subject to certain restrictions. Most were engaged in daily labouring or pursued trading activities of various kinds. Most of the refugees in Iran, in contrast, were 'integrated' within Iranian society, and permitted to work in designated menial occupations. They were responsible for finding their own housing but had free access to health and education services and were also entitled to food and other subsidies on the same basis as Iranians. One element of the refugee population in Iran constructed their own mud villages close to the Afghan border. These so-called 'spontaneous' settlements were provided with health and education facilities by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR).