Aid workers from the United Nations refugee agency travelled from Kabul up to the Panjshir Valley today to check on some 12,000 Afghans who fled the Shomali Plains, north of the capital.
De-mining specialists had identified at least 12 villages in the Shomali Plains that appeared to be clear of mines, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expected to begin helping some of these Afghans to return home beginning next week, a spokesman for the agency said in Geneva.
Some 200,000 Afghans fled Shomali during the two decades of war, and 17 UN and non-governmental organizations (NGO) partners are planning to return the displaced as their areas of origin are declared safe. UNHCR said it would provide assistance to some 45,000 people to return to the Shomali Plains.
Meanwhile, the number of refugees crossing from southern Afghanistan into Pakistan has decreased, with less than 100 entering Pakistan through the Chaman border on Sunday, UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said. The number of spontaneous returns from Pakistan to Afghanistan, which exceeded 2,000 a day via Chaman late last week, also decreased.
While refugee arrivals into Pakistan's Balochistan Province have declined, UNHCR continues to work on a new site at Landi Karez, in addition to Roghani and the nearby UAE Red Crescent-sponsored site, which together shelter some 20,000 refugees, the spokesman said.