Pakistan: Voluntary Repatriation of Afghans from Pakistan (April - November 2017)
Overview of Voluntary Repatriation from Pakistan to Afghanistan
UNHCR facilitates the Voluntary Repatriation of Afghan refugees as part of its mandate to provide durable solutions.
UNHCR Pakistan operates two Voluntary Repatriation Centres (VRC) in Quetta and Peshawar. Families who want to repatriate are de-registered at the VRC and their Proof of Registration (PoR) card is cut in the corner. A PoR card is an identity card for Afghan refugees that grants their temporary legal stay in Pakistan and protection against refoulement. Returnees receive a cash grant of approximately 200 USD per family member once they have reached one of the three UNHCR Encashment Centres in Afghanistan.
In 2016, a scheduling system for returnee families from VRC Azakhel (Nowshera) was established. All returnee families must now obtain a scheduled date for their return. UNHCR facilitated Voluntary Repatriation recommenced on 3 April after a four month winter break. From April to November 2017, 13,310 families were scheduled for return in KP. However, 11,283 families (85%) presented at the VRCs for their departure to Afghanistan due to number of factors. There is a slight increase (1%) has been observed compared to previous months for the scheduled number of families as the majority have received their modified PoR card during the reporting period and lack of modified PoR cards was hindering return.
Since 2002, 4,360,191 Afghan refugees have repatriated from Pakistan with UNHCR’s assistance (see chart above). The number of refugees repatriating to Afghanistan has fluctuated over the years and has decreased substantially, from around 450,000 in 2005 to 58,211 in 2015. 2016 saw an increase of over 381,275 returns which was the highest recorded number of returns since 2005.
In 2017, 59,020 refugees (14,068 families) repatriated to Afghanistan which is 85% less compared to 2016 repatriation. Factors affecting the decision to return in 2016 primarily included: (1) introduction of a tight border management regime at the Torkham border (2) short-term extensions of the validity of PoR cards (3) intimidation and harassment by the authorities (particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and lesser acceptance of Afghans by local communities (5) doubling of the voluntary repatriation and reintegration cash grant.
Voluntary repatriation program has been suspended from 30 November 2017 due to winter break.