Afghanistan

Kabul meeting endorses repatriation plan for Afghan refugees

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Islamabad (Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator for Afghanistan), 25 February 2000 -- The third Tripartite Repatriation Commission (TRC) meeting was held in Kabul on 23 February 2000 to review the repatriation of Afghan refugees. The first TRC gathering in Kabul discussed the challenges facing the repatriation and reintegration process in a frank and constructive manner and reached consensus on all the key issues on the agenda.
The meeting endorsed UNHCR's repatriation plan, which envisages the return of 200,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran in 2000. UNHCR will provide logistical support to all those who express the desire to return home and assist returnees with shelter and water.

The TRC established a permanent Working Group, with a secretariat in the Office of the Commissioner for Afghan Refugees in Peshawar. The Taliban, the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR will be represented in the working group. It will meet monthly and oversee the implementation of the TRC's decisions.

One of the first tasks of the group is to conduct joint surveys in Pakistan and Afghanistan to collect information on the needs of refugees. The first survey to gather data on potential returnees and their needs will be conducted in refugee villages in Pakistan in March.

The TRC reiterated that the terms of the 1997 amnesty declaration regarding military service, property and land rights, and other rights remains valid. Under the terms of the amnesty, returnees are exempted from conscription service for at least a year. The authorities are also obliged to assist returnees in the recovery of their immovable properties and land.

It was also agreed that the Taliban officials would visit refugee villages in Pakistan to provide information on the situation and conditions in the areas of return.

The Taliban delegation was led by the Repatriation Minister, Maulana Abdul Raqib, the Government of Pakistan by the Secretary - Ministry for States and Frontier Region, Akram Javed and UNHCR by the head of the Afghanistan Office, Ahmed Said Farah and Representative to Pakistan, Hasim Utkan.

The next meeting of the TRC will be held in May.

There are more than 2.6 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, the single largest refugee group in the world. Pakistan hosts 1.2 million in 203 refugee villages in the North West Frontier, Baluchistan, and Punjab provinces. In the last decade, more than 4.2 million have returned home from the two countries. In 1999 some 92,000 Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated from Pakistan.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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