Afghanistan + 7 more

Afghanistan: Border Monitoring update - COVID-19 Response (15 - 21 November 2020)

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1,924 AFGHAN REFUGEES RETURNED TO AFGHANISTAN

773,234 UNDOCUMENTED AFGHANS RETURNED FROM IRAN AND PAKISTAN

44,585 INTERVIEWS WITH RETURNEES FROM IRAN AND PAKISTAN

Since 01 January, UNHCR assisted the return of 1,924 Afghan refugees from Pakistan (1,006), Iran (843) and other countries (75) including Tajikistan, India, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation, under its facilitated voluntary repatriation programme. After a temporary suspension of voluntary repatriation between 04 March and 29 April due to COVID-19, UNHCR resumed its facilitated voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran as of 30 April and from Pakistan and other countries as of 10 August.

Refugee returnees receive a multi-purpose cash grant (on average USD 250 per person) and other services at Encashment Centers (ECs) located in Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, and Nangarhar provinces. UNHCR’s cash grants to refugee returnees are intended to prevent, reduce, and respond to immediate protection risks and vulnerabilities upon return to Afghanistan.

According to MoRR/IOM, during the weeks of 15 - 21 November, the total number of undocumented returnees from Iran was 25,155 (15,523 spontaneous returnees and 9,632 deportees) and from Pakistan was 89 (all spontaneous returnees). Since 01 January, the total number of undocumented returnees is 773,234 individuals, including 767,230 from Iran (479,941 spontaneous returnees and 287,289 deportees) and 6,004 from Pakistan (5,438 spontaneous returnees and 566 deportees).

During the week, regular population movements continued through Spin Boldak and Torkham crossing points to/from Afghanistan. In addition, the Government of Pakistan has recently resumed issuance of visas, including visas upon arrival for people with medical issues, which has resulted in increased population movements. On 21 November, Torkham crossing point was closed a for few hours by Afghanistan following after Pakistani authorities started repair work on its side which impacted population movements. However, the problem was resolved, and the crossing point was re-opened to normal traffic in the afternoon.

UNHCR has observed an increase in the spontaneous return of Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders through Torkham, among whom a number of them reported that the border authorities in Torkham punched their cards as an alternative identity/travel document. Afghans without a passport, including PoR card holders, are issued with a token by the border authorities to allow them to exit Pakistan. This additional procedure is giving rise to crowded conditions at the border, in which wait times to cross into Afghanistan are much longer and some tensions have been observed. UNHCR Afghanistan, in coordination with the office in Pakistan, is closely monitoring these trends at Torkham.

Since 21 August, Spin Boldak crossing point has been open seven days a week for pedestrians and commercial trucks. As of 25 August, Torkham border has been open on Mondays and Tuesdays for refugee returnee movements to Afghanistan. Furthermore, on 28 September the Government of Pakistan decided that the Torkham and other crossing points with Afghanistan located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be open for pedestrian traffic on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.