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Socio-Economic Reasons and Solutions of Afghanistan-Based Migration

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Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), war, insecurity and instability have been going on in the country. Although the internal and external actors of the war change cyclically, as the results of the war; death, hunger, unemployment, ignorance, migration and all the evils that come to mind remain in existence. Some sources state that the number of Afghan migrants abroad in 2020 is 6.5 million. It is known that the distribution of Afghan immigrants by country is 2.4 million in Pakistan, 2.4 million in Iran, 688 thousand in Europe, 513 thousand in the United States (USA) and Australia, and 551 thousand in other states (mainly in Türkiye).[1]

As it is known, the Taliban again dominated Afghanistan on August 15, 2021. As soon as they gained control in the country, many Afghans  tried to go abroad by going to Kabul Airport.  In the meantime, it was seen that several Afghan citizens were holding onto the planes and then fell to the ground from the air and died. It is known that approximately 1 million Afghans immigrated to foreign countries legally and illegally in the 10 months after the Taliban took over the administration.  As of now, the number of Afghan refugees abroad is estimated to be around 7 million.

There are many reasons for Afghanistan-based migration.  However, it can be said that socio-economic problems come first among them.  Because in the last 20 years, the Afghan government has spent the aid sent in the military field and has not been able to create opportunities to provide job opportunities to the people.  Apart from this, 70% of the budget of the Afghan Government is provided by foreign support. With the re-dominance of the Taliban, foreign aid was cut on a large scale and Afghanistan’s national reserves were blocked by the USA. This situation has left the Afghan people to face more unemployment and humanitarian crisis. The cutting of foreign aid, Covid-19 and the drought in Afghanistan are other factors that cause the Afghan people to become even more impoverished. Due to the drought, it is seen that the Afghan people have difficulty in feeding not only themselves, but even the animals they own.

In its latest report, the United Nations (UN) stated that one out of two people in Afghanistan is facing hunger.  It has been stated that if Afghanistan is not helped, hundreds of people will lose their lives and that 5 billion dollars is needed in 2022 to prevent the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan.[2]  It is known that people in the cities of Afghanistan sell their kidneys due to unemployment and hunger.  It was even seen that a person in Kabul tried to set himself/herself on fire due to hunger and unemployment.[3]

While the main reason for migration in most states is defined as “reaching a better future”, the main factor that causes Afghans to go abroad is;  economic and social problems. In other words, Afghans go to foreign countries to help their families by making money. Because of this, it can be said that many Afghans do not take their wives and children abroad. Another reason why Afghans do not emigrate with their families is the worry that the journey takes a long time and that women’s dignity will be trampled on the roads. Because migrants go abroad en masse and have to pass through high mountains to reach another state. While Afghans have previously worked by going to Iran and Pakistan and returning to the country,  when the economic situation worsens in these two states, they are trying to go to European states via Türkiye.

Today, states are against immigration, describing it as “a factor that threatens borders and national security”. In this context, it is seen that states have built a wall on their borders by increasing their security measures. However, leaving people who are not guilty of the developments in their country to hunger and their fate is incompatible with human and conscientious values. Since the international community does not recognize the Taliban government, it sends humanitarian aid through international organizations and civil society instead of helping Afghanistan directly. In this context, the UN, operating around the world, announced in a statement published in December 2021 that it had collected 1.5 billion dollars for Afghanistan as humanitarian aid and helped 7 million Afghans. Donations consist of food and cash. [4] With a decision taken by the UN, it has announced that it will send 20 million dollars to Afghanistan every week until April 2022. The money sent will first be transferred to the International Bank of Afghanistan (AIB) and then distributed to the Afghan people either in cash or as food aid.[5] In this process, it is known that many states other than the UN sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

A Humanitarian aid and cash support are important to reduce hunger and save the country’s economy from collapse in Afghanistan. However, it is not possible to say that these steps will solve the problems in the country and prevent migration. Therefore, the international community, especially the USA, UN, EU and neighboring states of Afghanistan, should take serious steps to combat the socio-economic problems that are the main cause of migration in Afghanistan.  In this context, it would be an important approach for the West, like the regional states, to see the Taliban as “a fact of Afghanistan” and to take care to communicate with the Taliban in solving the problems.  In this context, the establishment of an “Aid Distribution Commission” that includes the Taliban as a first step and the distribution of aid to those in need through it can be considered as a proposal.

With the Taliban dominating the country, the war stopped on a large scale. The cessation of the war created the basis for providing job opportunities to the public by implementing infrastructure and development projects. Therefore, the West, international organizations and regional states should not be content with humanitarian aid known as “dressing measures”, but should take the path of supporting a more permanent and sustainable development policy.In this context, just as the USA developed the Marshall Plan for the development of Europe after World War II, a “Development Fund” should be established for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. All aid to Afghanistan should be collected here, and funds should be spent for the reconstruction of Afghanistan by establishing international mechanisms. Because the development projects will provide employment to the Afghan people, making it easier for the citizens to find a job in their own country, and thus, people will be prevented from leaving their country at the risk of death.

Finally, global and regional actors should turn competition over Afghanistan’s geopolitics into cooperation. They should also recognize each other’s interests in regional projects covering Afghanistan, especially in making the conditions of the international community acceptable to  the Taliban. Because economic-based policies create interdependence.  Thus, states may abandon their policy of escalating the problem, considering that destabilization of Afghanistan will not be in their own interest.

As it is known, Afghanistan is located between Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, which are known as the three geopolitical centers in Asia.  By making good use of the advantage of its geographical location and by developing an economic-oriented foreign policy, Afghanistan can contribute to the recovery and development of the prosperity of the region by connecting geopolitical centers together. In other words, the projects that include Afghanistan, especially TAPI and TAP, will provide employment opportunities to the Afghan people and will also bring billions of dollars to Afghanistan as a transit right.

According to the Pakistani poet Mohammed Iqbal, “Afghanistan is the ‘Heart of Asia’.  When it degenerates/destabilizes all of Asia degenerates/destabilizes. When it stands up/regains peace, all Asia stands up/regains peace”. Therefore, Afghanistan-based migration cannot be prevented without solving the economic and social problems in Afghanistan.  In this context, the probability of experiencing new waves of Afghanistan-based immigration is high.

In more concrete terms, the capacity of the crisis in Afghanistan to affect Pakistan, the Central Asian States and Iran should also be taken into account. It can be stated that this migration will not be limited to Afghanistan alone, it may lead to a regional migration that may be expressed in tens of millions. Although Afghanistan’s neighbors were initially affected by the new waves of migration, it can be said that eventually the whole world, especially the EU states, will be affected by it.

Afghanistan is a state where the most drugs are produced, terrorist organizations are located and weapons are smuggled. Along with migration, there is a possibility that these problems will spread to other states.

To put it as a result, regional states, especially the USA, the UN and the EU, should try to dry up the source of the problem before the crisis deepens in Afghanistan. Otherwise, when Afghanistan fails, the regional states will no longer be able to protect their borders and will fail to stop migration.

[1] “تعداد مهاجران و پناهجویان افغانستانی در جهان”, Afganistan Bilgi Ağı, https://www.afghanpaper.com/nbody.php?id=163892, (Date of Accession: 16.06.2022).

[2] “ملل متحد خواستار پنج میلیارد دالر کمک برای جلوگیری از فاجعه بشری در افغانستان شد”, DW, https://l24.im/Y6Ey, (Date of Accession: 16.06.2022).

[3] “مردی به دلیل فقر، خود را در کابل آتش زد”, rfi, https://l24.im/LaOc9SY, (Date of Accession: 16.06.2022).

[4] “سازمان ملل از جمع‌آوری ۱.۵ میلیارد دالر برای کمک به افغانستان خبر داد”, Haşti Subh, https://8am.af/the-united-nations-has-announced-that-it-has-raised-1-5-billion-to-help-afghanistan/, (Date of Accession: 16.06.2022).

[5] “۳۲ میلیون دالر کمک نقدی بشردوستانه سازمان ملل به کابل رسید”, Khaama, https://www.khaama.com/persian/archives/96637, (Date of Accession: 16.06.2022).

Ahmad Khan DAWLATYAR
Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, 2013 yılında Kunduz Üniversitesi Hukuk ve Siyaset Bilimi Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi Anabilim Dalı’nda “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ve Afganistan İslam Cumhuriyeti Anayasalarında Güçler Ayrılığı İlkesi Üzerine Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” başlıklı teziyle 2019 yılında almıştır. Çeşitli bilimsel etkinliklere katılan Dawlatyar, Afganistan sorunuyla ilgili bildiriler ve makaleler sunmuştur. Bu kapsamda “Afganistan Sorununun Dini ve İdeolojik Nedenleri” başlıklı sunumu yayınlanmıştır. Halihazırda Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Dawlatyar, anadil seviyesinde Farsça, Özbekçe, Türkçe ve Peştunca dillerine hakimdir. Ayrıca orta düzeyde İngilizce bilmektedir.