Migration and conflict in Afghanistan

Question

Is internal/international migration within/from Afghanistan a driver of conflict itself? To what extent is internal and international migration in/from Afghanistan driven by conflict? Are economic drivers a bigger factor driving migration? What role, if any, does age/gender play in migration within/from Afghanistan? Do issues related to migration act as sources of resilience and/or offer opportunities for peace?

Summary

Migration flows in Afghanistan includes external migration to neighbouring countries and across the world, and internal migration with many internally displaced people (IDPs). The last three decades of conflict have led to overlapping outflows and return of Afghan migrants driven by a complex set of factors. The literature on the topic is mostly qualitative and often based on interviews. Gaps and difficulties in data collection hamper the analysis of migrant profiles, migration drivers and of the relationship between conflict and migration. For example, whether migration is itself a driver of conflict does not seem to have been analysed.

While the key factor driving migration is conflict and insecurity, it is often interlinked and inseparable from economic factors. For example, conflict affecting rural livelihoods have pushed migration to cities or neighbouring countries. In addition, Afghans have unequal opportunities to migration, depending on their economic and social status. Whereas urban and more educated groups tend to migrate to industrialised countries, the poorest make up a large part of IDPs. Demographic pressure with a growing amount of young Afghans looking for economic opportunities is also an important factor of migration. Women become extremely vulnerable as a result of migration.

However, the use of migration as a coping mechanism shows the resilience of the Afghan population. The diaspora also has a key role in the reconstruction and development of the country through remittances, investment, transfer of skills and knowledge. Predictions for the years to come are not optimistic. Experts suggest that another major displacement crisis is likely to happen leading in particular to increasing internal displacement.

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Suggested citation

Lopez-Lucia, E. (2015). Migration and conflict in Afghanistan (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1243). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.