Afghans repatriate from Nasir Bagh
The group of 199 Afghans left Nasir Bagh aboard nine trucks loaded with their belongings, including windows, doors, bedding and other personal effects from their nearly 20 years of refuge in Pakistan. UNHCR escorted the convoy through the Khyber Pass to the Torkham border crossing, where formalities were completed with the Taliban frontier officials and the Afghans proceeded to their home areas where UNHCR staff will monitor their return.
Earlier, Pakistani government officials relented on a 30 June order to forcibly evict more than 60,000 Afghans living in parts of the Nasir Bagh refugee village. The Afghans, who were first informed of the government's plans to close Nasir Bagh two years ago, were this week given time to leave the site, where authorities plan to build a housing estate for Pakistani civil servants.
"UNHCR appreciates the restraint by Pakistan's government in regards to the Nasir Bagh settlement closure order," said UNHCR Representative Hasim Utkan. "Refugees in need of protection and security should be permitted to remain in Pakistan, but we must also respect the wishes of Afghans like these, who would rather go home than move again."
The refugee families returning from Pakistan today are receiving an exceptional assistance package of Rupees 7,000 ($117) to hire transport and to purchase food and other items upon arriving in Afghanistan.
Most of today's returnees are headed for their villages of origin in Kabul, Nangarhar, Kunar and Parwan provinces in central and eastern Afghanistan.
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. Additional repatriation convoys from Pakistan to non-war affected parts of Afghanistan are planned for next week.
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
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