Flight and Migration

Displacement and migration in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the largest countries of origin for refugees fleeing war, persecution and violence. About 2.6 million Afghan refugees are registered around the world, and the United Nations estimates more than two million unregistered Afghan refugees additionally. Most Afghan refugees (91% flee to the neighbouring countries Pakistan or Iran. Many Afghans have also chosen to migrate and live outside the country, including labour migrants.. In addition, according to estimates by the United Nations, more than two million Afghans are currently displaced within their own country. Pakistani refugees also live in Afghanistan, an estimated 125,000 people by the end of 2017.

There are many different reasons why people are displaced. Individuals flee repression and persecution, war and human rights abuses. The situation they live in forces refugees to abandon their country of origin. By contrast, unless there are external forces compelling them to do so, migrants take the decision to leave consciously. Young people in particular migrate to improve their living conditions and prospects. A long list of factors including employment, income, reliable water and electricity supply, food, health care and accommodation play a significant role. Other individuals have been forced to flee because of natural disasters; in Afghanistan, these can include extreme events such as floods, landslips, drought and earthquakes that threaten the affected population groups’ livelihoods.

Almost 154,000 Afghans came to Germany in 2015 and around 50,000 in 2016. In January 2016 alone, more than 12,000 Afghan nationals arrived in Germany. However, from April 2016, the figure fell to fewer than 3,000 a month. In 2016, around 130,000 Afghan nationals still applied for asylum in Germany; 2018 the total was less than 10,000.

Since summer 2016, a substantial number of registered and unregistered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and Iran have also returned home – around 2.2  million people in total as of September 2018. As well as tackling the integration of large numbers of internally displaced persons, the country has had to provide most of these people with accommodation and basic services.

The German government’s intention is to mitigate the reasons for displacement and irregular migration within Afghanistan and to create prospects in the country. This includes reintegrating those whose applications for asylum have been rejected and providing support for Afghan nationals returning from neighbouring countries and migrants within the country. Since the Taliban regime’s fall in 2001, the German government has been supporting a large number of development projects in Afghanistan. Alongside the country’s civil reconstruction, the German Cooperation with Afghanistan focuses particularly on promoting an Afghan state based on the rule of law. This includes complying with and protecting human rights, combating corruption and the drug cultivation, ensuring national security, and creating a reliable legal system. It is also essential that citizens recognise the state as a legitimate representative and a service provider that will meet their basic needs. It must give its citizens legal certainty and create prospects, scope for participation, and the chance to make a personal contribution to shaping their own future and the country’s economic and political future. Germany is supporting Afghanistan in combating poverty, improving governance as well as the country’s economic situation, and creating the basis for long-term stability and security.

At the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016, the German government reiterated its commitment to the country and pledged future financial support for stabilisation and civil reconstruction, including funding for a wide range of civil support measures in Afghanistan.

As well as cooperation with numerous Afghan partners in the areas of water supply, energy, education, health and economy, the German government is cooperating with the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, provincial and municipal administrations and the Afghan Ministry of Finance to improve the situation of internally displaced persons and to better equip local populations to tackle natural disasters. These measures are designed to help improve the living conditions of people in emergencies locally and to meet their needs directly.

To find out more about what the German Government is doing around the world to mitigate the causes of displacement and irregular migration, stabilise host regions, support refugees and make use of the opportunities offered by migration, visit the websites of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Foreign Office (AA).

Bundesentwicklungsminister Dr. Gerd Müller

‘Mitigating the causes of displacement means investing in development.’

Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development



What is needed?

Since 2001, Afghanistan has made significant progress in the areas of health, education, infrastructure and women’s rights and in its state administration. This progress needs to be consolidated and expanded. It is also important to implement measures preventing the country’s destabilisation. Against this background, President Ashraf Ghani and many Afghan civil society representatives have warned repeatedly of a ‘brain drain’ that would see young Afghans – many of them well educated and qualified – leaving the country.

To combat the causes of displacement, measures to stabilise the security situation within the country and to combat political persecution, the military monopoly over power, and extremism, must be taken. It is also necessary to demonstrate to the Afghan population that they have prospects within their own country. That includes reintegrating returners.

Afghans’ trust in their own state needs to be rebuilt. Alongside a range of infrastructure measures, initiatives to boost the economy, and the drinking water and electricity supply's extension, Afghanistan faces a number of challenges in creating a future for its people, including combating corruption, creating mechanisms for the rule of law and setting up a functioning administration. The German government is providing support in tackling these challenges.

Click HERE  for impressions and case studies.

What has already been achieved?

Since 2009, the German government has invested more than EUR 3.8 billion in development projects in Afghanistan: its priority areas are good governance, humanitarian assistance, stabilisation, urban development and municipal infrastructure,, sustainable economic development), as well as programming flexibility. A variety of programmes range from expansion of infrastructure and the construction of large numbers of health centres and electricity plants to measures on continuing training and employment promotion.

Objective: demonstrate to Afghan citizens that they have prospects within their own country and to support the Afghan authorities in providing appropriate services for the population. Around 22 million Afghan women and men – more than two thirds of the total population – are currently benefiting from projects receiving support.

Success is already evident: just a few examples are outlined below. For more details, please visit the current data overview of the German Cooperation with Afghanistan.

  • Since 2009, 405 educational establishments have been built, extended or upgraded, including 181 primary schools, 161 secondary schools, 18 universities and 45 vocational schools. Around 380,000 individuals benefit from these measures.
  • Since 2010, 13,500 long-term jobs have been created, and 33 businesses as well as 18 factories have been set up or equipped.
  • More than 30,000 young people completed a course of vocational training between 2014 and 2016, including almost 20% women.
  • Since 2009, more than one million people have received continuing training, including 198,000 women.
  • More than 30,000 households have been connected to the main water supply since 2013, benefitting up to t 230,000 people.

What are the objectives of the German Cooperation with Afghanistan?

Current support activities in Afghanistan aim at reducing the causes of displacement and helping Afghan citizens move beyond poverty and extremism to identify prospects within their own country, particularly the northern provinces. Cooperation focuses on:

  • Access to education for both girls and boys
  • Access to vocational education and training
  • Employment opportunities in rural areas for both women and men
  • Repair and expansion of infrastructure
  • Reform of public administration
  • Expansion of the rule of law and democratic structures and measures to combat corruption
  • Expansion and development of power plants, drinking water systems and health care facilities
  • Support for Afghan refugees and migrants in Afghanistan with return and reintegration


Interview with Arno Tomowski, GIZ activity coordinator in the areas of displacement and migration 


GIZ Video Thumbnail pictureMost internally displaced persons (IDPs) settle on the outskirts of larger cities where the land is still affordable, but where even the most basic necessities are often not available. Their arrival increases pressure on the local job market and the strain on infrastructure, creating a tinderbox that frequently lead to conflicts with the local population. Most IDPs have no resources and no prospects, and this is where GIZ comes in. https://www.giz.de/fluchtundmigration/en/html/3562.html


Creating prospects in Afghanistan

Experts for reconstruction and development

To boost the management skills of Afghan government ministries and key institutions, the German government supports the employment of integrated experts and returning experts in the Afghan labour market. These individuals primarily support Afghan ministries, key institutions and administrations. Skilled experts and managers can help building clear and efficient structures, developing leadership qualities and ensuring transparency. Most of these individuals have an Afghan background, enabling them to assume key positions and to lead on important regulatory and structural policy change.

These experts work in the areas of good governance, security, domestic and foreign policy, the economy, transport, education, higher education, culture and the media, where they pass on their expertise to colleagues.

Since 2002, more than 100 integrated experts have been hired in key posts in Afghanistan, supported by the German government. 13 integrated experts are currently working in Kabul and Balkh Province, while 22 returning experts are working across the country (as at September 2018). Click HERE for further information on the integration of experts in Afghanistan.

Integrating internally displaced persons

In Afghanistan, as elsewhere in the world, internally displaced persons flee within their own country rather than across national borders. In September 2018, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated the number of IDPs in Afghanistan at above 2million – with an upward tendency. IDPs typically have much poorer access to services than the local population and face shortages of accommodation, food, water, medical care, education and employment.

To promote self-help, the Integration of Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan project supports IDPs in integrating into their new surroundings aiming at enabling them to earn their own living again. With the help of training, Afghan experts from government ministries and staff of non-governmental organisations are trained to identify and properly implement necessary measures to support IDPs in need.

Examples of implemented activities that significantly improve the living conditions of IDPs include: two schools for around 2,750 families; 95 new drinking water wells; 344 temporary accommodation units for particularly vulnerable families; initial and continuing training in weaving, sewing and loam construction for around 8,400 individuals; training courses in conflict resolution and hygiene for IDPs; basic literacy and numeracy training for more than 1,600 individuals. Click HERE for further information on the project.

Creating prospects through opportunities for earning and employment

Video on business development in Afghanistan: https://www.giz.de/fluchtundmigration/en/html/3594.html

Each year, around 400,000 young Afghans enter the labour market with poor prospects of finding appropriate employment. There are two reasons: There is a job shortage in Afghanistan, but training also frequently fails to meet the labour market’s requirements and to develop the skills the country needs. Young people lack practical experience and know-how to manage business processes efficiently and effectively.

The German government is helping to stimulate the local economy with financing opportunities for entrepreneurial ideas and with special programmes. Farmers, suppliers, retailers, entrepreneurs, business associations and political stakeholders are receiving continuing training and expert support in technical and organisational areas and in business management. Events such as trade fairs promote active exchange and commerce, while individual construction projects are supporting improvements in the business infrastructure. Irrigation systems and warehouses have also made a major contribution to improving agricultural production units and processes.

More profitable income opportunities for all population groups promote confidence and social cohesion. From 2015 to 2016, for example, almost 12,800 long-term jobs have been created, innovation has been encouraged, markets have been expanded and production processes more efficient which has also boosted the incomes of many entrepreneurs. Click HERE for further information on supporting sustainable economic development and employment promotion on the German government’s behalf.

Education and training – the keys to a brighter future

Students at a TVET school

Wolfgang Gerhardt, a German politician, once said: “Education and training are our passport to the future.” A country’s economic success goes hand in hand with levels of education and training: only a well-trained generation will be able to make use of the opportunities available and to contribute to positive development. Three decades of violent conflict and the Taliban regime have left their mark on Afghanistan: only just under half a million children went to school under the Taliban, with girls having to learn in secret. Now, around nine million children are back in school, with 74% of primary school-age girls and 98% of primary school-age boys receiving an education.

German government programmes are supporting initial and continuing training for vocational school teachers, moving away from an overly theoretical curriculum and towards practical training that reflects the labour market’s needs. About t 3,500 young people are currently being trained to teach in newly constructed vocational schools in Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif. Measures are also stimulating cooperation with educational institutions and companies where apprentices can complete placements and familiarise themselves with day-to-day employment practice, facilitating their entry into working life. The Supporting Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Afghanistan (TVET) project, which has been running since 2009, has so far constructed or upgraded seven vocational schools in Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz Province. More than 50 vocational schools have been equipped with basic workshops and classroom furniture, while seven new technical and craft training professions have been developed and introduced at 51 vocational schools. More than 14,000 young people are currently undergoing training at the new vocational schools.

Across all areas of education and training, since 2009, 400 training institutions have been built or upgraded, including 181 primary schools, 161 secondary schools, 18 universities and 45 vocational schools. These cooperation measures with Afghanistan are benefiting around 380,000 people. Click HERE for further information about support for education and training measures.  

A peaceful future for all Afghan citizens

International Children's day - kids painting for the 'pictures of hope' exhibitionAll Afghan citizens should be able to live unaffected by crime and extremism. The Civil Peace Service (ZFD) project, launched in 2004, is designed to strengthen peace between ethnic, religious and social groups, using reflection, creative ways of tackling fear and anger, measures to build trust, non-violent communication, constructive criticism, self-help, and dispute mediation. Thanks to their support and activities, long-term peace goals have already been achieved: beyond ethnic and linguistic barriers and traditional gender roles, change occurs in many places. For example, the project is working actively to reintegrate young offenders in penal institutions and to give them prospects upon their release from incarceration. It is also offering education to street children and supporting their integration into society. Click HERE for further information on support for civil society peace processes.


A national health service – creating new prospects

New facilities open at the Kunduz Regional Hospital with funding from Germany.For most Afghans, appropriate medical care is out of reach because in many cases, clinics, health centres and hospitals are several days’ journey away. Constructing new and modern health infrastructure, equipping a large number of health centres and providing continuing training for medical staff helps improving health care for the population in both rural and urban areas. The new hospitals comply with modern hygiene standards and energy efficiency criteria and provide a better health care environment for both patients and staff. Meanwhile, additional infrastructure measures are making it easier for the local population to access health centres outside their town or village.

Alongside improved diagnostic methods, many Afghan health care establishments are now also using innovative technologies, such as telemedicine. Since 2009, a total of 68 hospitals and health centres have been built or upgraded across the country, benefiting more than 3 million people.

Click HERE for further information about expanding nationwide health care and optimising the health care system.


#RumoursAboutGermany – an information campaign in Afghanistan

The German Federal Foreign Office has launched a wide-ranging information campaign in Afghanistan as part of its efforts to combat rumours and lies spread by human traffickers. Using a wide range of channels – radio and television, social media, communications from the Embassy and civil society events – it aims to ensure that Afghan citizens considering fleeing to Europe have a realistic picture of life in Europe and do not risk their lives based on false information. The objective is to inform, not to deter:  http://www.rumoursaboutgermany.info



Do not believe the rumours and false information deliberately spread by human traffickers about the allegedly easy trip and the easy life in Germany.

Do not risk your lives by trying to flee to Europe.

Human traffickers are criminals who are only interested in money. They don’t tell the truth and don’t care about human lives.

Germany is withdrawing its support for Afghanistan.

Wrong! Germany will continue to support Afghanistan and to persevere in its endeavours to stabilise the country by training the Afghan armed forces and helping people in Afghanistan, particularly as regards education and vocational training.

Simply coming from Afghanistan gives you a right to asylum.

This is not true! Only people who have been persecuted can hope to be granted asylum.

All the Afghans I know in Europe are successful.

In most cases, refugees invest their own money, and often that of their relatives, in order to reach Europe. It is obvious that they portray this step as a success to the people back home, even though the reality is, unfortunately, quite different. Many Afghans in Germany who have no qualifications or do not speak German are unemployed.

I’ll be able to work in Germany.

The German Government does not provide refugees with jobs. It often takes many years before a refugee is allowed to work legally in Germany.

I’ll get a welcome payment.

Contrary to rumours and misinformation deliberately spread by human traffickers, Germany does not give refugees a welcome payment. By spreading such lies, human traffickers knowingly put people’s lives in danger.

I’ll be able to earn a living and receive benefits in Germany.

The German Government does not provide refugees with jobs. Moreover, the cost of living is considerably higher in Germany than it is in Afghanistan.

You can get by with English in Germany.

German is the only language spoken in everyday life, the public authorities and most companies in Germany.

Germany can take 800,000 immigrants.

Wrong! Residence in Germany is subject to specific legal requirements. Illegal residence is a criminal offence. People who are not granted permission to stay will be deported.

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