Afghan refugees return from Pakistan
The UNHCR-escorted ten truck convoy with 158 Afghans left the Saranan and Loralai refugee settlements Tuesday morning bound for the town of Buldak in south-western Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
UNHCR halted repatriation movements from Pakistan last November when it ran out of funds, leaving several thousand anxious refugees in the lurch and unable to individually finance their return home.
"Some of these refugees have been asking to return home since repatriation convoys were broken off last November," said UNHCR Representative Hasim Utkan. "We are working to help Afghans return home in a targeted way to ensure that they reach regions capable of absorbing returnees."
Each family receives 6,000 Pakistani rupees ($90), shelter material and 150 kgs of food aid from the UN World Food Program upon their return.
UNHCR staff based out of the agency's five offices inside Afghanistan operate ten mobile teams to monitor returnees and oversee assistance projects that help to stabilize former refugees back in their home areas.
The UN refugee agency has identified some communities in western, central and eastern Afghanistan that are considered conducive to returns because of stable security and local economic and agricultural conditions, and the agency helps willing Afghans originating from these regularly-monitored areas to repatriate and rebuild their lives.
Last year more than 76,800 Afghan refugees voluntarily returned home from Pakistan and 134,000 returned from Iran in UNHCR-facilitated and monitored repatriation convoys.
Both Pakistan and neighboring Iran each shelter some two million Afghan refugees. The more than four million Afghan refugees comprise the largest refugee population world-wide. UNHCR plans further repatriation convoys from Pakistan to non-war affected parts of Afghanistan.
Media contact: Mr. Peter Kessler on (051) 282.9502 ext. 104 or mobile tel. 0300 854.9854, or Mr. A.Q. Karim on tel. 282.9502 ext. 105