Afghan diaspora
Persian: مهاجران افغان
Pashto: بهر مياشت افغانان
Regions with significant populations
 Iranc. 2-3 million (2023)[1]
 Pakistanc. 4.4-3.7 million (2023)[2][3]
 Germany425,000 (2022)[4]
 United States300,000 (2022)[5]
 United Arab Emirates300,000 (2023)[6][7]
 Russia150,000 (2017)[8]
 Canada132,015 (2023)[9][10]
 Turkey129,323 (2021)[11][12]
 United Kingdom79,000 (2019)[13]
 Sweden60,858 (2020)[14]
 Australia59,797 (2021)[15]
 Netherlands51,830 (2021)[16]
 France41,174 (2021)[17]
 Greece21,456 (2021)[18]
 Ukraine20,000 (2001)[19]
 Denmark18,018 (2017)[20]
 India15,806 (2021)[11][21]
 Austria44,918 (2023)[22]
  Switzerland14,523 (2021)[18]
 Finland12,044 (2021)[23]
 Italy11,121-12,096 (2021)[18][24]
 Norway19,072 (2023)[25]
 Uzbekistan10,000 (2022)[26]
 Israel10,000 (2012)[27]
 Indonesia7,629 (2021)[11]
 Tajikistan6,775 (2021)[28]
 Qatar4,000 (2012)[29]
 Japan3,509 (2020)[30]
 New Zealand3,414 (2013)[31]
 Brazil2,800+ (2023)[32]
 Malaysia2,661 (2021)[11][33]
 Kazakhstan2,500+ (2021)[34][35]
 Romania2,384 (2020)[36]
 Kyrgyzstan2,000 (2002)[37]
 Ireland1,200 (2019)[38]
 Ecuador300–2,500 (2018)[39]
Dari Persian, Pashto, and languages spoken in the respective country of residence
Sunni Islam (majority)
Shia islam, Hinduism and Sikhism (minorites)

Afghan diaspora refers to the Afghan people that reside and work outside of Afghanistan. They include natives and citizens of Afghanistan who have immigrated to other countries. The majority of the diaspora has been formed by Afghan refugees since the start of the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979; the largest numbers temporarily reside in Iran and Pakistan. As stateless refugees or asylum seekers, they are protected by the well-established non-refoulement principle and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.[41] The ones having at least one American parent are further protected by United States laws.[42][43]

Outside the immediate region of Afghanistan, the largest and oldest communities of Afghans exist in Germany; large communities also exist in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Turkey, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia and Austria. Some are nationals and citizens of the countries in those continents, especially those in the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.[44][45][43]

Traditionally, the borders between Afghanistan and its southern and eastern neighboring countries have been fluid and vague.[46] Like other nations that were created by European empires, the borders of Afghanistan with neighboring countries often do not follow ethnic divisions, and several native ethnic groups are found on both sides of Afghanistan's border. This means that historically there was much movement across present day barriers.[47]


The April 1978 Saur Revolution led to the 1980s Soviet–Afghan War. These events compelled millions of Afghans to migrate to neighboring Pakistan and Iran on a temporary basis, i.e., until threats of torture, persecution and mistreatment disappear in Afghanistan.

After the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Afghan civilians began escaping to neighboring Pakistan and Iran where they were welcomed by the governments of those countries. From there many immigrated to North America, Europe and Oceania. Smaller number went north and began residing in various cities across the then Soviet Union. Some went to India, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere within the Asian continent.[48]

After the withdrawal of Soviet forces in February 1989, large number of Afghans began returning to their homeland,[49] but after the mujahideen took control of the country in 1992 they again began migrated to neighboring countries. From there the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and many others began helping Afghans to resettle in Europe, North America and Oceania.

Since March 2002, around 4.4 million Afghan refugees have been repatriated to Afghanistan with the assistance of the UNHCR and IOM.[50][51][52][3] Nearly 1.3 million still remain in Pakistan[53] and 2.5 million or so in Iran.[54] A number of countries that were part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have granted permanent residency to tens of thousands of eligible Afghans.[55][56][57][58][59][60] This creates a legal pathway for those Afghans to become citizens of those countries. Native people of Afghanistan now reside in at least 96 countries around the world.[18] Some of those returning from Pakistan have complained that "they have been beaten and slapped and told nobody in Pakistan wants them anymore."[61] Others have regarded Pakistan as their home because they were born there.[62] Returnees from Iran experience similar or worst punishments.[63] A number of returnees to Afghanistan make new journeys to the European Union (EU) to seek asylum there.[64][65]

Afghan diaspora around the world

Map of the Afghan diaspora in the world (includes Afghans of any ethnicity, ancestry or citizenship).
  + 1,000,000
  + 100,000
  + 10,000
  + 1,000

Numerous local places around the world with a high concentration of Afghans have been dubbed "Little Kabul", including Centerville District in Fremont, California, U.S.,[66] Steindamm in Hamburg, Germany,[67] Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, India,[68] and Hotel Sevastopol in Moscow, Russia.[69]

Western Asia

Main articles: Afghans in Iran, Afghans in Turkey, and Afghans in Qatar

Approximately 780,000 registered citizens of Afghanistan are temporarily residing in Iran under the care and protection of the UNHCR.[54][70][71] According to Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees, the total number of Afghans in Iran is around 3 million.[72] The UNHCR stated in 2020 that little over 2 million undocumented citizens of Afghanistan were residing in various parts of the country.[54][71] According to IOM, over 1.1 million of them were repatriated to Afghanistan in 2021.[50][51] Over 600,000 have returned to Afghanistan in 2022.[73][74] According to Iran's Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi, half of Iran's foreign investors are Afghans.[75]

Significant number of Afghans also reside in Turkey. They include business investors, registered refugees, migrant workers, and those trying to make their way to Europe.[11][76][77][12] Around 300,000 reside in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where many are investors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.[6][78][7] Some of them could be Iranians or Pakistanis using false Afghan passports.[79] Approximately 10,000 Afghans reside in Israel. They are Israelis by nationality.[27] Between 3,500 and 4,000 Afghans reside in Qatar.[29]

The UAE authorities were criticized was keeping thousands of Afghan asylum seekers in cramped and miserable conditions for more than 15 months. Afghans between 2,400-2,700 were being arbitrarily detained in Emirates Humanitarian Cities in Abu Dhabi. Several Afghans interviewed said they were not allowed to leave the site freely and were allowed visits to necessary hospitals only under close supervision by security forces and camp guards. HRW called for the UAE to release those arbitrarily detained, and to allow them a fair and efficient procedure to determine their status and protection needs.[80]

South Asia

Main articles: Afghans in Pakistan and Afghans in India

Islamabad, Pakistan

As of October 2023, the United Nations estimates that nearly 3.7 million Afghans reside in Pakistan, while Pakistani authorities believe the number to be as high as 4.4 million.[2][81][82] Of these, only 2.7 million hold the required documentation allowing them to legally stay in Pakistan.[2] As of June 2023, approximately 1,333,749 registered refugees still remain in Pakistan according to UNHCR.[83] They are also under the care and protection of the UNHCR.[84][85][86][87][88][89][90] On 3 October 2023, the Interior Minister of Pakistan Sarfraz Bugti ordered that all undocumented immigrants, mainly nearly 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to voluntarily leave the country by 1 November 2023, or face deportation in a crackdown.[91]

Around 15,806 Afghans reside in India, mostly in the capital Delhi.[11][21][92][93]

A small number also reside in Nepal.[94] Most of these fled Afghanistan as refugees but came to the capital Kathmandu via Delhi in search of job opportunities.[95]

North and Central Asia

Main articles: Afghans in Russia and Afghans in Tajikistan

Moscow, Russia

There may be as much as 150,000 Afghan refugees in Russia, a third of them reside and work in Moscow.[96][97]

Approximately 10,000 Afghans are said to be residing in Uzbekistan.[98] Around 1,000 are believed to be in Tashkent.[26] In 2005, their total number in that country was approximately 2,500.[99]

The number of Afghans in Tajikistan is approximately 6,775 as of 2021.[28] Hundreds are also known to be residing elsewhere.[100] It is believed some 2,500 and probably over 3,000 are in Kazakhstan.[34][35]

East and Southeast Asia

In December 2020, there were 7,629 registered Afghan refugees residing in Indonesia under the care and protection of the UNHCR.[11][101][102][103] The government of Japan reported 3,509 natives of Afghanistan residing in its country.[30] Malaysia has approximately 1,100 Afghans.[33] In China, there are "a few thousand" Afghans residing there,[104] including traders based in the international trade city of Yiwu.[105] Small number of natives from Afghanistan also reside and work in Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, and in the Philippines.[18]


Main articles: Afghans in Germany, Afghans in the United Kingdom, Afghans in Sweden, Afghans in Ukraine, Afghans in the Netherlands, and Afghans in Finland

Hamburg, Germany

Native people from Afghanistan can be found all over Europe.[106][107] Germany has the largest Afghan community in Europe. In the end of 2022, a total of 425,000 persons of Afghan descent[108] resided in Germany, including refugees and asylum seekers and Germans of Afghan descent. There were around 377,000 Afghan citizens residing in Germany at the end of 2022.[109] In the city of Hamburg alone being home to 50,000[110] people of Afghan descent and Hamburg and has the largest Afghan community in Europe. They came first in 1990s due to Afghan conflict to Germany where many people decided to live in Hamburg. Today Hamburg has many Afghan restaurants, shops and cafes. They are the second largest foreign group residing and working in Hamburg, after the Turks.

Elsewhere in Europe various size communities of Afghans exist in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Greece, Italy, Finland, Republic of Ireland, etc.[111][60][112][113][114][115] Some have long been citizens of those countries while others are there to seek asylum. The ones that are denied such relief are sent back to Afghanistan.[116] It was reported in 2001 that about 20,000 Afghans were residing in Ukraine. Of these, 15,000 were living in Kyiv and remaining in the Dnieper region.[19]

Between 1992 and 2002, Germany received the highest asylum requests from Afghans in Europe, a total of 57,600. The Netherlands received 36,500 refugees and asylum seekers, the United Kingdom received 29,400, Austria 25,800, Denmark 7,300 and Sweden 3,100. All other countries in the (pre-2004) EU received less than 2,000 asylum requests each from Afghan citizens.[107] Many also arrived during the recent migrant crisis, especially to Germany, Sweden and Austria.[117]


Main articles: Afghan Americans and Afghan Canadians

Northern Virginia in the United States

The United States has one of the largest and oldest Afghan population in the Americas, with about 250,000 residing in that country as of 2022.[118][119] The early ones had arrived before the 1930s.[45][44] Most were lawfully admitted under 8 U.S.C. § 1157(c) after the Refugee Act of 1980 went into effect. They became Americans in accordance with 8 U.S.C. § 1159(a)(2), 8 U.S.C. § 1427, 8 U.S.C. § 1436, 8 U.S.C. § 1452, etc., including under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.[43] They reside and work in nearly all U.S. states, including in California, New York, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Idaho, Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, Connecticut, Colorado, Ohio, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, and Tennessee.[120][121] Their total number is expected to increase in the coming years.[55][122][123][124][125][126][127]

Afghan Canadians form the second largest Afghan community in North America after Afghan Americans. Over 83,995 Afghan natives are settled in Canada and are Canadian citizens.[128] The overwhelming majority of them reside in and around the city of Toronto. The remaining can be found in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, etc.[57]

A month after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, Brazil became one of the few nations issuing humanitarian visas to persecuted Afghans, with embassies in Islamabad, Tehran, Moscow, Ankara, Doha, and Abu Dhabi licensed to process visa requests for humanitarian shelter.[129][130] As of June 2023, 11,576 visas had been granted and about 4,000 Afghans had arrived in the South American country. The refugees have faces problems to settle in the country, with over 200 of them living in the São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport while waiting for residencies.[131]

Small number of natives from Afghanistan are also reported to be residing and working in Ecuador, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Cayman Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago.[18]


Main articles: Afghan Australians and Afghan New Zealanders

Melbourne, Australia

Afghans have immigrated to Australia since the mid-19th century. The Ghan passenger train that travels between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north is named after them. There are over 59,797 Afghan Australians. They reside in a number of cities but mainly in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.[132] Around 3,414 Afghans reside in New Zealand. They are all citizens of those two countries.[133][31] Small number of natives from Afghanistan reportedly reside and work in the islands of Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Fiji.[18]


Small number of natives from Afghanistan are also reported to be residing and working in Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Chad, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.[18]

2,000 Afghan refugees have been accepted into Uganda following August 2021, along with 250 in Rwanda.[134]

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Further reading