UN’s top refugee official urges funding for Afghan repatriation programme

UN’s top refugee official urges funding for Afghan repatriation programme

Afghan refugees returning  from Pakistan
Saying it would be a “shame” to slow down efforts to repatriate Afghans to their home country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today called on donors to fund the agency’s multi-million dollar programme for Afghanistan.

Saying it would be a “shame” to slow down efforts to repatriate Afghans to their home country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today called on donors to fund the agency’s multi-million dollar programme for Afghanistan.

“We need the money to do our job,” Ruud Lubbers told reporters in Kabul, noting that UNHCR has so far received only $160 million of the $271 million budgeted for the Afghan effort.

“At the end of April, we will have almost no reserve,” he cautioned. “We constantly have to talk to donors.”

The High Commissioner recalled that last year, the United States said it would provide Afghanistan with $390 million in humanitarian aid. “That seems like a hundred years ago and all the other donor countries said the same thing,” he said.

The security situation in the country augured well for refugee returns, according to the High Commissioner. “In general, I would say let's talk about the 80 to 90 per cent of the country where returns are possible and not bother too much about the 10 per cent where stability still has to be achieved,” he said.

More than 267,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since 1 March. Another 5,000 Afghans in Iran have returned since last week. Together, Pakistan and Iran host some 3.5 million Afghan refugees who first left their country after civil war broke out over two decades ago. UNHCR plans to repatriate 800,000 Afghan refugees this year, while assisting some 400,000 people displaced within the country.