The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, arrived today in northern Afghanistan, where he met with government officials to discuss ways to help displaced Afghans return to their communities.
Mr. Lubbers is in Afghanistan as part of a 10-day mission to the region, during which he is scheduled to also visit Pakistan and Iran.
Upon arrival in Mazar-i-Sharif, Mr. Lubbers opened the first meeting of the Return Commission, a team sponsored by the Afghan Government to resettle displaced persons. The participants discussed concrete measures to resolve some of the issues that prevent them from returning to the north.
There are more than 720,000 internally displaced Afghans, including both families who left their homes due to security incidents as well as people who lost their livelihoods as a result of the long drought that seems to be ending in some regions.
Today's meeting, chaired by the Minister for Refugees and Repatriation, Enyatullah Nazari, brought together the region's main leaders, representatives from the Afghan Human Rights Commission and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to visit Pul-i-Khumri and also plans to visit Nahrin District in Balkh Province, where the UN refugee agency and its partners have helped rebuild more than 5,000 homes destroyed during two recent earthquakes.