The Afghan Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, said on Tuesday more than 300,000 Afghan refugees have returned home in the past five months.
Addressing an event on the eve of World Refugee Day in Kabul, Balkhi said that since the beginning of 2018 more than 900 Afghan migrants have returned home voluntarily just from Europe and another 246 were deported.
"(In total) we have 332,453 returnees from all over the world, from neighbors, Asia and European countries,” he said adding a total of 955 returned voluntarily from Europe.
Balkhi said that at the moment more than six million Afghans are living as migrants or refugees in other countries.
This comes after the UNHCR released a report on Tuesday that stated wars, violence and persecution uprooted record numbers of men, women and children worldwide last year.
The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends survey found 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world at the end of 2017, more people than the population of Thailand.
Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million.
This is 2.9 million more than in 2016, also the biggest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year.
Afghanistan is the source of the second-largest refugee population globally with 2.6 million people having fled by the end of 2017, the UNHCR report stated.
New displacement is also growing, with 16.2 million people displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly. That is an average of one person displaced every two seconds, the report stated.
The number of asylum-seekers awaiting the outcome of their applications for refugee status had also risen by about 300,000, to 3.1 million, by the end of December 2017.
People displaced inside their own country accounted for 40 million of the total, slightly fewer than the 40.3 million in 2016.
“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
Large-scale displacement across borders is also less common than the 68 million global displacement figure suggests. Almost two-thirds of those forced to flee are internally displaced people who have not left their own countries.
Two-thirds come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
As with the number of countries producing large-scale displacement, the number of countries hosting large numbers was also comparatively few. Turkey remained the world’s leading refugee hosting country in terms of absolute numbers, with a population of 3.5 million refugees, mainly Syrians.
“There was fighting, shooting, children being taken away. Houses, including mine, were destroyed.”
Lebanon hosted the largest number of refugees relative to its national population. In all, 63 per cent of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility were in just 10 countries.
Sadly, solutions remained in short supply. Wars and conflict continued to be the major drivers, with little visible progress towards peace. About 5 million people were able to return to their homes in 2017, with most returning from internal displacement. Among these were people returning under duress, or to fragile contexts, the report stated.
Syria remained the country with the highest forcibly displaced population in 2017 with 12.6 million at the year’s end. This total comprises 6.3 million refugees, 146,700 asylum-seekers and 6.2 million IDPs.
Colombia, again, had the second largest displaced population, at 7.9 million people (7.7 million of which were IDPs) while displacement from Afghanistan (4.8 million), South Sudan (4.4 million), Iraq (3.3 million) and Somalia (3.2 million) also remained high.
UNHCR’s Global Trends report is published worldwide each year ahead of World Refugee Day, and tracks forced displacement based on data gathered by UNHCR, governments, and other partners.