The Afghan Refugee Crisis: Multiple Origins, Few Solutions

By Michael Jacobs

Starting in the spring of 2015, the number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe skyrocketed, catching many observers by surprise. Most readers who are aware of this issue know that the primary country of origin for these refugees is Syria, a country in the midst of a brutal civil war. What most people wouldn’t guess, however, is the refugees’ second most popular country of origin: Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Syrians make up 52 percent of all Mediterranean Sea refugee arrivals in 2015, followed by Afghans at 19 percent and Iraqis at 9 percent – less than half the number coming from more distant Afghanistan. Furthermore, this doesn’t take into account refugees arriving via the Arctic Route, where over the last 3 weeks Afghans outnumbered Syrians seeking refuge in Norway.

Migrants of unspecified ethnicity cross underneath unfinished border fence from Serbia into Hungary, August 2015.

Migrants of unspecified ethnicity cross underneath unfinished border fence from Serbia into Hungary, August 2015. 

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Reorienting the War on Drugs in Colombia and Afghanistan

By Ariel Gandolfo & Miguel Eusse

The United States’ multi-billion dollar War on Drugs in Afghanistan and Colombia has failed. Afghanistan supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium, which is derived from poppies and used to make heroin, while Colombia is home to around 43 percent of the global coca supply. Despite continued efforts to crack down on the production of heroin and cocaine in these countries, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 36 percent between 2012 and 2013, to record levels. In Colombia, approximately 2.6 million acres of coca were sprayed with toxins between 2000 and 2007, yet cocaine production rose during the same period, and more recently increased by 44 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Coca field fumigation. Source: Policía Nacional Colombiana

Coca field fumigation. Source: Policía Nacional Colombiana

In Colombia and Afghanistan, farmers grow coca and poppies because they are profitable, but also because there are no viable alternatives to earn a living. Governments are now realizing that criminalization and eradication programs are not enough, and they are changing strategies to foster alternative opportunities to drug cultivation. These new approaches are supported by multilateral and bilateral organizations such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and USAID. Continue reading