Decades of conflict and the search for better economic opportunities have pushed millions of Afghans into neighboring Pakistan and Iran. While an estimated 2.5 million Afghans are registered refugees, a possibly equal number of Afghans live in Pakistan and Iran without legal refugee status. These undocumented Afghans face numerous protection challenges both in their host country and upon their return to Afghanistan either voluntarily (“spontaneous return”) or through deportation.
From 1 January to 31 December 2016, a total of 691,581 undocumented Afghans returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan (248,054) and Iran (443,527). This is a 4% overall increase from 2015, when a total of 663,295 undocumented Afghans returned from Pakistan and Iran. Compared with 2015, spontaneous returns increased by 14% (474,234 vs.416,457) and deportations decreased by 12% (217,347 vs. 246,838).