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This paper examines the dimensions of choice and agency for refugees in ‘voluntary repatriation’ in the case of Afghanistan. Specifically focusing on the voluntary aspect of ‘voluntary’ repatriation, it explores its validity, meaning and practice in relation to legal and political dynamics. It argues that UNHCR as well as host countries have employed measures and practices that have largely ‘induced’ the return of Afghan refugees, rather than having allowed them to decide according to their own free will. Moreover, it demonstrates how the voluntary decision-making of refugees as a requirement for voluntary repatriation has been incorporated into UNHCR practice to suit the agency’s institutional practice, thereby limiting refugees’ free choices and options regarding repatriation.The analysis of this paper draws primarily on academic literature from various disciplinary perspectives and incorporates NGO reports, news reports, as well as a vast array of UNHCR documentation.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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