Afghanistan: Returnee Crisis Situation Report No. 7 (as of 28 February 2017)
The total number of undocumented returnees who have arrived in Afghanistan from Pakistan so far in 2017 has now risen to 9,607, exceeding the total figure which returned in the first quarter of 2016 (9,335). From 19 to 25 February, IOM reported 321 undocumented Afghans were deported from Pakistan. Numbers of undocumented returns and deportees have dramatically decreased in the last week following the closure of the Torkham and Spin Boldak borders on 16 February as a result of cross-border shelling.
Following a winter pause in UNHCR’s assisted repatriation programme, registered refugee returns are set to resume on 1 April. Consultations on the level of cash assistance to be provided to individual refugees are currently ongoing.
An inter-agency durable solutions scoping mission to Jalalabad, Nangarhar province took place from 7 to 9 February. Led by UNHCR, team members – IOM, UNDP, and UNHABITAT – met with the Governor of Jalalabad and his ministerial counterparts as well as OCHA, REACH and the Eastern Region Reintegration Working Group. Two site visits, including a series of Focus Group Discussions with community and returnee elders, were completed in Marghundi village in Sukhrod district and Daman village in Behsud district. Initial findings demonstrated the presence of widespread shelter, livelihoods, WASH, education, health and food needs.
A health facility survey conducted by WHO in November and December 2016 across 120 health facilities in the Southern and Eastern regions has found that one in every four (25%) lacks a safe water source within the compound and 41% do not have sufficient water to cover all needs (such as cleaning floors, equipment, toilets and maintaining basic hygiene). Likewise, only 46% of facilities have adequate toilets and more than two thirds lack handwashing points in the areas where health care services are provided. In the absence of basic WASH services to complement delivery of health services, these facilities are poorly equipped to handle existing caseloads, let alone additional pressure caused by returnee influxes and internal displacement.
The Ministry of Education (MoE), in collaboration with Education in Emergency Working Group (EiEWG) partners, are currently planning a Back to Learning campaign for the end of March to coincide with the expected recommencement of UNHCR’s repatriation programme and the resumption of the school year in the cold zones.
The campaign will include distribution of IEC materials (posters, flyers, and billboards), awareness raising activities (door-to-door visits, community level meetings with Shura, teachers, religious institution and community) and awareness raising through Radio/TV messages.
Two months after the HRP became operational on 1 January, it has yet to receive any confirmed funds against overall requirements of US$550 million, although commitments of US$ 75.3 million have been registered.
Of these commitments, US$ 20 million is earmarked for Food Security and Agriculture; US$ 5.9 million for ESNFI and US$ 2.2 million for coordination. The remaining amount – US$ 47.2 million – has yet to be allocated to specific sectors. Refugee and Returnee Chapter requirements in 2017 total US$240 million.
So far in 2017, the total number of undocumented returnees arriving from Pakistan has risen to 9,607. During the first two weeks of February between 700 and 1,200 undocumented Afghans returned each week, however none have spontaneously returned since the borders were closed on 16 February 2017 following intense cross border shelling and airstrikes in the wake of suicide bombings in Pakistan on 13 and 16 February.
On 7 February, the Government of Pakistan announced new measures aimed at improving the management of the voluntary repatriation program and living situation for Afghans who decide to remain in Pakistan. The new measures include extension of the validity of Proof of Registration Cards (PoR) for some 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees until the end of 2017; a pledge to document Afghan nationals who currently have no identification; the establishment of a visa regime for different categories of Afghan nationals, and a commitment to adopt a national refugee law.
On 15 February, the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan together with UNHCR held the 28th Tripartite Commission Meeting in Islamabad. During this meeting it was agreed to delay commencement of the UNHCR repatriation programme until the level of the cash grant had been determined and clear messaging for refugee returnees developed.