"They buy oil, flour and rice on tick." Life of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan

"They buy oil, flour and rice on tick." Life of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan
Approximately 80 per cent of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan live using family funds from Canada and Europe. They don't receive any aid from Afghanistan, it's very difficult to find the work in Tajikistan, even the UN, according to refugees, provides them with almost no aid.

"If they don't send $200 each month..." 

Last year, Mirahmad was forced to escape from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. He lived in Kabul city and was engaged in delivery of fuel to the military forces. According to him, with the fear of Taliban revenge, who were approaching Kabul step by step, he left his house and property, and came to Tajikistan.

Mirahmad has two daughters and two sons. They live in Vahdat city, 19 kilometers from Dushanbe in rented house, for which they pay $115 a month. Besides, for six family members it's necessary to have at least $176-221 a month for food, electricity and other living expenses. 

However, in Mirahmad's family only his son works. He works as English teacher in one of educational institutions, and earns 2,000 somoni per month. This amount is not enough for the family of six. In this situation, Mirahmad's family is more reliant on help from Canada. Mirahmad's brother is a migrant in this country and monthly sends money to Tajikistan.  

"He sends $200 or more each month. The part of money we use for paying the rent of house, and the rest we spend for family needs," - says Mirahmad. 

"Sell on credit, please, we'll pay as soon as they send the money." 

According to "Oriyono" officials, the community of Afghans in Tajikistan, almost 80 percent of refugees in Tajikistan have the same fate as Mirahmad's family. 

One big group of refugees in Tajikistan, including Mirahmad, live in 18-storey house at the entrance of Vahdat city. Here we had the opportunity to communicate with at least four families who confirmed that they receive aid from their relatives, or as they themselves say, from "sponsors" living in Canada and Europe. Their relatives are also migrants, but taking into account the better economic conditions in Canada and Europe, Afghan refugees from these countries can provide material assistance to their relatives in Tajikistan. 

The total amount of funds sent to refugees is unknown. Officials of National Bank of Tajikistan refrained from providing these statistics. The request was also sent to the National Bank of Canada, but after two weeks we have never received the response. Four refugee families in interview with us noted that on average they receive $200 a month from their relatives. According to Afghan refugees, without this assistance, their life in Tajikistan would become much harder than it is now.  

"When we receive the money, we will pay the debt," - Gulomhaidar hears this promise of refugees almost every day. He has a grocery store on the ground floor of 18-storey building. He is also refugee, and after his request to visit Canada was rejected for the fifth time, he decided to stay in Tajikistan. 

Showing his debt notebook, Gulomhaidar says that it has already filled out from writing down and striking out the names of debtors. "They ask us to sell on credit oil, rice, flour and other products. They promise that as soon as the sponsors (relatives) send the money, they will pay their debt," - says this shopkeeper.  

"The store is no longer profitable" 

Nurmuhammad, one of other Afghan refugees during the conversation with Ozodi Radio said that in past years refugees didn’t need the money of their relatives from Canada and Europe as much as they do now. 

According to him, until August 2021, Nurmuhammad's relatives used his store in Afghanistan, and from the profit they sent him money. After "Taliban" came to power, the economic situation in Afghanistan was greatly shaken, and Nurmuhammad no longer receives funds from the profits of his store.  

"Pay further attention to the high cost of products in Tajikistan. A year ago, the cost of one liter of oil was 13-14 somoni, and at the moment it costs 25 somoni. The cost of house renting has also increased. What should we do? Thank God our son sends $200-300 a month from London. I don't know what would we do without these funds," - says refugee.  

"The total amount of aid was no more than $60" 

According to statistics of the UN Commissioner, Tajikistan hosted 13 thousand 700 Afghan refugees. Most of the refugees who spoke to us say that they are grateful for the peace and serenity in Tajikistan, but the lack of working places leads them to despair. 

Refugees say that in addition to the lack of working places and cessation of aid from Afghanistan, they also do not receive sufficient aid from UN refugee office. For example, the hero of our report - Mirahmad says that during the year of his staying in Tajikistan as a refugee, the UN refugee office has assisted him only once. 

"Their aid consisted of oil, the small package of flour, beans and rice. All the aid they provide for one family costs $50-60. This is not enough even for a month, "said Mirahmad. 

Three other refugee families told us the same. However, according to the UN Commissioner on refugees’ affairs, a lot of aid was provided to Afghan refugees. This UN-controlled entity in October last year, in an official letter addressed to Ozodi Radio, wrote that Afghan refugees were also provided with legal and social support and assistance.   

In addition, according to UN Commissioner for Refugees, after the events of August 2021 in Afghanistan, they significantly expanded the scale of their programs. In any case, the UN response on helping Afghan refugees was common and this structure didn't give any specific statistics on how much money was spent to improve the life of refugees. 

"We don't want to remain burden forever"  

During six months of the last year, in addition to UN structure, some activists from Tajikistan also tried to help Afghan refugees. However, refugees who spoke with Radio Ozodi said that mainly food aid is provided once, and that it is impossible to live, relying only on it. Therefore, the aid of relatives from abroad is currently the main source of existence of Afghan refugees in Tajikistan. 

Afghan refugees say that attention should be paid to their lives in Tajikistan and the UN should develop the specific program to assist this group of people, or, according to refugees, provide them with working places. Otherwise, based on the words of refugees such as Mirahmad, "they cannot forever remain burdens for their relatives from Canada and Europe."

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