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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

South Asia: Afghans

Between March and August 2002, some two million Afghans returned in one of the fastest repatriations on record. A third returned to Kabul, whose population swelled to two million. Afghanistan has 28 million residents, and electricity shortages and four-year drought are contributing to sanitation problems in Kabul and elsewhere.

Some 100,000 Afghanis remain in European countries that are anxious to send them home. Human rights activists oppose government plans to return Afghanis, arguing that with winter approaching, the new government is not prepared to receive more people.

The International Organization for Migration has a "Return of Qualified Afghans" program, and reported that, between December 2001 and August 2002, almost 6,000 Afghans abroad applied for transportation and other assistance to return to Afghanistan and help rebuild the country. Most of the 252 who returned in the program's first eight months were living in Pakistan.

Transparency International http://www.transparency.org/) named Bangladesh, Nigeria, Paraguay and Madagascar as the most corrupt nations, and Finland, Denmark, New Zealand and Iceland as the least corrupt. In 2002, 70 of the 102 countries received less than five of the maximum 10 points for "highly clean" countries.

India. There are an estimated 50,000 Indian professionals working in the US, most on H-1B and L (intracompany) visas. About 2,000 of Wipro's 10,750 employees are in the US; Wipro is India's biggest software company by market capitalization.

Since the mid-1990s, the government begun to distinguish between People of Indian Origin (persons with non-Indian citizenship) and Non-Resident Indians (Indians abroad). There are some 20 million ethnic Indians and Indians abroad, and they have, according to the Indian government, an income of about $400 billion, which means that the 20 million overseas Indians have 80 percent as much income as the one billion Indians in India.

In early 2002, a report recommended changes to strengthen ties to Indians abroad, including offering dual citizenship and reducing the cost of the People of Indian Origin card- a multiple entry visa good for 20 years that cost $1,000 until mid-September 2002, when the cost was reduced to $350.

Sri Lanka. Most of the migrants leaving Sri Lanka are women going to work as maids in Saudi Arabia, which has 273,000 Sri Lankans. About 10,000 Sri Lankans a month leave for overseas jobs, most to Gulf states.

In September 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger separatists began peace talks aimed at ending a 19-year civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people and ruined the economy, prompting emigration. Since 1983, Tigers have been fighting for a homeland in the north and east of the majority Sinhalese country formerly known as Ceylon.

Sudeep Chakravarti, "The Diaspora: How Do We Get Them To Help?" India Today, October 14, 2002. Thomas Fuller, "EU plan to expel Afghans is badly timed, critics say," International Herald Tribune, September 20, 2002.