Statement from the Refugee Council after reports that some Afghan refugees wish to return home following the demise of the Taliban regime

22 Nov 2001
Refugee Council statement

Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, Nick Hardwick, said:

"The calls for Afghans to return need a shrewd political assessment. Clearly, it is in the interest of some factions in Afghanistan to claim it is safe to return even if the facts demonstrate otherwise.

"There is also a danger that moves from some Western Governments and media to encourage returns will divert attention away from the still over-whelming humanitarian needs in the region.

"Clearly, the situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable and insecure. The conflict between the warring factions continues, the bombing has not ceased, and there is no Government in place. Law and order is deteriorating, there is no established criminal justice system, and what exists is arbitrary. It is, therefore, premature to be talking about returns at this time, and most importantly, returns must only be on a voluntary basis. There must be no pressure on anyone to return home who does not feel it is safe for them to do so.

"However, there will be some Afghans who wish to return home immediately and help in the reconstruction of their country, while many others may wish to go home sometime in the future. There will also be some who may never wish to return either because they are permanently settled here or who feel it will never be safe for them to go back.

"The Home Office must put in place sensible measures that will enable those wishing to return - once it is safe - to make an informed decision and properly prepare themselves. Any measures should ensure that Afghans would be able to retain their status in the UK, while exploring the possibility of returning. Such measures would include an 'explore and prepare' programme that would enable them to visit Afghanistan first, to explore if it is realistic to return permanently and allow them to make plans to do this. In some cases, some adults may - at this time - want to return without their families, and this should be respected."