As returns to Afghanistan decline, UN refugee agency slows operations in Pakistan

6 August 2002

With the number of Afghans returning from Pakistan decreasing, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announced plans to cut back its operations in the country.

In May, over 412,000 Afghans returned - a figure which fell to just over 300,000 in July, according to agency spokesman Kris Janowski.

"Last week alone we saw a drop of 21 per cent in returns from Pakistan from the previous week," he said, noting that UNHCR has reduced the number of its registration centres in the country and cut back on their operating hours.

"From 1 August, we closed two registration centres - Azahiel on the edge of Peshawar and our Burhan centre near Islamabad," he explained. "Our verification centres in Pakistan are now working only five days a week, except for the centre in Baluchistan which is operating only four days a week."

Although the number of returnees from Pakistan "has peaked and will likely continue to decline over the coming months," the spokesman called attention to the urgent need for funds to help those inside Afghanistan. "The donor community needs to ensure that reconstruction and development assistance arrives as quickly as possible to meet the myriad needs facing those who have already returned," he said.

UNHCR, which has budgeted $271 million for the Afghanistan crisis, faces a funding shortfall of $43 million.


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