Afghanistan: preparations for organized repatriation moving forward, UNHCR says

8 February 2002

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said that preparations in Iran and Pakistan for the organized repatriation of Afghans were going forward, although for the moment the agency was not encouraging people to return.

In Iran, the Government was preparing 10 repatriation centres where Afghans would be able to register, as well as constructing three special exit points along its border with Afghanistan to facilitate crossings, a spokesman for the agency said.

In Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province, UNHCR and the Government next week plan to survey Afghan refugees living in the newly established camps to obtain information about where people want to go and when they might be prepared to return.

“For the moment UNHCR is not encouraging Afghans to repatriate, although we plan to distribute basic kits to spontaneous returnees inside Afghanistan who request assistance,” agency spokesman Peter Kessler said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Meanwhile UNHCR monitors at the Torkham crossing point with Pakistan reported that nearly 15,000 persons entered Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass in the first six days of February, Mr. Kessler said. The vast majority were men, with ethnic Tajiks outstripping other Afghan tribes.

“Ten per cent of the returnees interviewed said they were university graduates, while 25 per cent had finished secondary school, indicating that these spontaneous returnees want to get in on the ground floor of Afghanistan’s new economy,” the spokesman said.

Inside Afghanistan, relief agencies in Herat planned to start registering displaced persons living in the sprawling Maslaqh camp in the coming days, an operation overseen by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) but with support from UNHCR registration specialists.

 

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