It may not be their preferred destination, but increasing numbers of Afghan refugees, seeking to escape the growing insecurity of their homeland, are making their way to Tajikistan. The former Soviet republic on Afghanistan’s northern border is seen as safer than Pakistan, less socially restrictive than Iran, and a more culturally familiar place, as many of the refugees speak a dialect of Tajik.
Yet even relative to Pakistan and Iran -- the traditional destinations for refugees fleeing Afghanistan’s 30-plus years of war -- Tajikistan is desperately poor. Jobs are scarce. Most of the Afghan refugees live in chronic poverty, as about half of their host nation does.
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Edward Lemon is a freelance journalist based in Dushanbe.