Fresh job prospects prompt female Afghan refugees to return home, UN reports

Fresh job prospects prompt female Afghan refugees to return home, UN reports

Fresh opportunities for employment - banned under Taliban rule but now permitted under the new Interim Administration - are drawing female Afghan refugees back to their home country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today.

Women comprise the majority of more than 15,000 Afghans who have crossed back into Afghanistan via the Chaman border point in Pakistan since the advent of the Interim Administration, a UNHCR spokesperson told reporters in Islamabad.

"They are mostly heading for Kabul where female employment prospects are perceived to be good since the installation of a new government in the capital," said Fatoumata Kaba. "Indeed, the international community, embodied by diplomatic representations and aid agencies, is encouraging female employment." Prior to last Saturday's inauguration of an interim Afghan leader, those returning were mostly males.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to shift needy refugees to new camps in Pakistan. Ms. Kaba said the agency would pursue this effort throughout the winter season. "In early January we plan to open seven new sites in the North West Frontier Province area that have a cumulative reception capacity for over 50,000 refugees," she noted.

New refugees in Jalozai - "one of the camps in Pakistan with the most difficult living conditions" - could be transferred to sites, "where they feel they have easier access to Afghanistan when they are ready to return," she added.