The land is lush in this river-fed region of eastern Afghanistan. The highway that leads to the Pakistan border, 60 miles away, passes fields of ripening wheat, cucumber and cauliflower. The nearby city of Jalalabad is bustling, with crowded sidewalks and traffic jams of produce trucks, auto rickshaws and tractors.

But for a large, nearly invisible populace of new arrivals, the welcome has been grudging, the work scarce and the terrain as barren as the moon.

They are natives of the region, but they have been away for years, living as undocumented war refugees in Pakistan. About 260,000 such returnees have arrived in the past 15 months, pushed out by Pakistani authorities and encouraged to return by the Afghan government, but lacking official status in either country.

In many ways, they are misfits and intruders in their homeland — nomads allocated bits of rocky ground to pitch tents and build cinder-block huts; surplus laborers in a market crowded with men who have fled insurgent fighting nearby; half-forgotten relatives trying to squeeze back into villages where no one has room to take them in.


Read the whole story from The Washington Post.