As Afghanistan prepares for its third presidential election since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, a new survey by US analytics and advisory company Gallup reports that a record number of Afghans -- including nearly half of the Afghan women -- would rather be someplace else, leaving their war-torn country permanently if they could.
The survey shows that life in Afghanistan in 2018 was, on many levels, worse than at any point in the past decade. Afghans felt less safe, struggled more to find work and afford the basics, and rated their lives worse than anyone else on the planet.
Underscoring their desperation in this environment, more Afghans than ever also said they would like to leave their country permanently if they could -- and join the mass exodus that has taken place in the country since 2015, according to the survey.
In the midst of the deadliest year for Afghan civilians since the United Nations began documenting casualties--and as millions of Afghans also grappled with food insecurity--a record-high 41% of Afghans said they would move to another country permanently if they could.
Afghans’ desire to migrate has increased in every region of the country within the past two years, but it is highest in South-Western Afghanistan, where the Taliban have retaken control and where severe drought has driven many Afghans deeper into poverty and food insecurity, the survey says, adding that a slim majority in the South-Western region (52%) said they would like to move away permanently if they could.
According to the survey, the percentage of Afghan women who say they would like to move has nearly tripled since 2016, and for the first time, significantly more women (47%) than men (35%) want to leave.
The survey reveals that Afghans who say they would like to move to another country are most likely to name Germany (19%) and Turkey (19%), the two countries where Afghan refugees make up the second-largest refugee populations after Syrians, as their preferred destination.
Moreover, it shows that the US, which is often the No. 1 desired destination for most of the world’s potential migrants, is the next-most mentioned after the first two, with 12% saying they would like to move there.