Afghanistan Humanitarian Bulletin Issue 62 | 01 – 21 March 2017

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 21 Mar 2017

HIGHLIGHTS

• Humanitarian community prepares for a new wave of returnees as spring season begins. UNHCR and IOM estimate that between 864,000 and 1.5 million people could return in 2017.

• Results from the first round of IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), recently completed in Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces, indicate that 1 person in 5 across the three provinces is a returnee.

• NRC constructs transitional shelters in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces for 8,000 undocumented returnees.

• In March, the Pakistan Humanitarian Country Team visited Kabul to better understand the issues surrounding the return of refugees and undocumented Afghans. Moving forward, a cross-border HCT Working Group will develop common messaging to inform advocacy efforts with both governments.

HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE PLAN FUNDING 21% FUNDED

550 million requested (US$)

117 million Received (US$)

Spring preparations for a new wave of returning Afghans

As the harsh Afghan winter draws to a close and spring brings with it more temperate conditions, the humanitarian community expects to see an increase in the number of Afghans once again returning from neighbouring Pakistan. As the rate of return is influenced by a number of political, security and other related factors both in Afghanistan and neighboring countries, another surge in returns could occur at any time. UNHCR and IOM have provided high level returnee estimates for 2017, with a lower case scenario of over 864,000 people and higher case scenario of over 1.5 million people.
Already the number of undocumented returns is starting to rise following a lull during the winter months and IOM is responding to a substantial increase in the return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan and from Iran. More than 25,000 undocumented Afghans have spontaneously returned or been deported from Pakistan since January 2017. In the week 2-8 April 6,628 returned through Torkham border (Nangarhar province) and Spin Boldak border (Kandahar province) representing a 14% increase on the previous week.

After the winter break, UNHCR’s facilitated voluntary repatriation operation from Pakistan resumed on 3 April, 2017. 18,000 registered refugees have indicated an intention to return within the month and so far 1,591 have arrived from Pakistan between 03 – 08 April; of which 69% returned from KPK, 15% from Baluchistan, 11% from Punjab and smaller numbers from Islamabad and Sindh provinces). According to the Voluntary Repatriation Form (VRF) information, 56% (886) of the returnees from Pakistan intend to return to Nangarhar and Kabul provinces. These provinces remain consistently among the top five provinces of return since 2002.

Returning refugees from Pakistan are assisted at three encashment centers in Kabul,
Samarkhel in Nangarhar and Jamal Mayna in Kandahar provinces. Upon arrival, returning refugees are provided with a one off cash grant, an average of USD 200 per person to assist in covering travel costs and immediate re-integration needs including food, rent, and other basic commodities. Basic health services are also provided by a UNHCR implementing partner as well as vaccinations by MoPH supported by WHO and UNICEF and Nutrition assessments and provision of basic medicines including Vitamin A and deworming by UNICEF’s implementing partner. Mine awareness is also targeted at the returning refuges carried out by the Danish Demining Group supported by UNMAS.
Protection monitoring teams have conducted sample interviews with newly arrived returnees in the encashment centers both to assess return trends including motivating factors and to further identify persons with specific needs for additional support or referral.

Interviewed returnees stated that they were happy to return to their homeland and expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by UNHCR, particularly the USD 200 cash grant. However, they raised concerns about how long the money would last, until they found work opportunities. Returnees were aware of the level of the cash grant before they returned, and said they would be using the cash grant to pay transport costs, rent, settle existing debts and medical expenses, as well as to meet immediate needs, such as food and clothing.

For 2017, IOM is working to scale up its support to undocumented returnees in coordination with the Government of Afghanistan and other humanitarian partners (see page 6) and critically, is continuing its support to the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, providing technical expertise and expanding digital registration of undocumented returnees at the border through the newly-established Afghan Returnees Information System (ARIS).

IOM has implemented a significant expansion of its presence at the Torkham border and doubled the size of the Transit Center where it receives vulnerable undocumented returns. In the week 2-8 April IOM assisted 5,001 (75%) undocumented Afghan returnees from Pakistan, including 627 single parents, 16 special cases and two unaccompanied migrant children. Assistance for undocumented returnees has also been extended to Kandahar province since late 2016, with IOM opening a Reception Center at Spin Boldak border and a Transit Center in Kandahar city. IOM’s assistance package for undocumented returnees has been revised to account for prolonged border closures, and will include in-community assistance as well as cash to replace certain NFIs.

IOM has launched the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), (see page 3) a mechanism for tracking population movements, and the Community Response Map (CRM), a tool for project monitoring and communication with communities. These tools will also better understand the needs and intentions of returnee families both at the border and once they have reached their final destinations, as well as identify gaps and assess the efficacy of assistance provided. In close collaboration with UNHCR and other partners, IOM is also seeking to harmonize data collection efforts and assistance provision at the community level using a targeting mechanism via the DTM that would assess communities based on the presence of vulnerable populations and implement humanitarian quick impact projects with individual assistance for Persons with Specific Needs.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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