Afghans return home in growing numbers under UN refugee agency’s programme
Just two days into a new initiative by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help Afghans voluntarily return to their home country, some 3,000 have crossed the border from Pakistan, the agency announced today.
Because of the still-precarious security situation in some parts of Afghanistan, the agency is cautioning people participating in its repatriation initiative to avoid certain areas, including Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Zabul, Uruzgan, Nimroz, Helmand, Farah, Tora Bora and Sholgara.
At the same time, UNHCR said there was evidence of improved stability, citing the case of Jalalabad, where the agency’s partners have begun implementing livelihood projects that had been disrupted in the aftermath of the United States-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan.
The agency provides each returnee with $20 – or $100 for a family of five – to finance their travel home. The refugees receive the cash on arrival at the Afghan border town of Mohmandar, where UNHCR has set up a distribution point.
Once inside the country, the returnees will receive wheat, blankets, plastic tarpaulin, a hygiene kit, tools and other relief items through distribution centres UNHCR has set up across Afghanistan.
Since the installation of the interim government in Kabul in December, more than 150,000 Afghans have returned on their own to Afghanistan, according to UNHCR.
Anticipating that some 1.2 million Afghan refugees and displaced persons will return to their homes this year, the agency is preparing to launch, in Iran, a programme similar to its Pakistan operation. Together, those two countries host an estimated 3.5 million Afghan refugees.