Afghans’ narrowing mobility options in Pakistan and the right to transnational living: a figurational perspective

Release date: 2022-07

Different types of low-scale mobility have traditionally aided Afghans in Pakistan to cope with the challenges of everyday life during forty years of displacement: cross-border and domestic movement, resource usage from assets ‘back home’, transnational networks, and circular migration conditioned by war, prospects for peace and economic opportunities. However, in the past twenty years, Afghans’ transnational living and mobility have not only become politicised, but mobility options have decreased considerably. This article analyses the underlying immobilisation dynamics, the compression of displacement dimensions, and its effects which translate into Afghans experiencing increasing immobility as forced displacement, accompanied by a feeling of protractedness after spending decades in Pakistan moving freely within the country and cross-border. Based on figurational theory, we argue that the observed linearity of immobilisation dynamics is not inevitable and discuss the potential of Afghans, the governments involved, donors and implementers to change the established figurational dependencies and possibly create alternative solutions that centre on mobility as robust right. Based on our analysis of the socio-political figuration of Afghan refugees in Pakistan – what we call the ARiP figuration – we argue that Afghans should be granted a right to transnational living and mobility.

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