Afghan refugees will be given more time in Pakistan, UN refugee agency says

30 August 2005

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), after talks in Kabul, will seek official agreement on giving 3 million Afghan refugees nine more months in Pakistan before the agency’s voluntary repatriation programme closes down.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), after talks in Kabul, will seek official agreement on giving 3 million Afghan refugees nine more months in Pakistan before the agency’s voluntary repatriation programme closes down.

The agreement, which was to have expired next March, will be extended in its present form to December next year, pending the approval of the respective governments and UNHCR. The preliminary decision was taken during a meeting this week of representatives on the Tripartite Commission, UNHCR said.

Pakistani representatives also said refugees in the camps being closed tomorrow, for security reasons, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near the Afghan border, have been given a choice of going home in the UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme or relocating to other existing camps in Pakistan.

Most returnees from the FATA camps are bound for the provinces of Khost, Nangarhar, and Paktya in eastern Afghanistan, as well as central Kabul province, UNHCR said.

The Commission agreed to form a sub-committee to coordinate the camp closures and to facilitate the reintegration of Afghans returning home. It stressed the importance of addressing land and shelter issues in Afghanistan and called for robust international support.

Pakistan’s plans to register all Afghans still living in the country in 2006 received support from the Government of Afghanistan and UNHCR and they agreed to finalize a proposal for the exercise in the coming weeks. A census conducted earlier this year by the Pakistani Government, with assistance from UNHCR, showed that more than 3 million Afghans are living in Pakistan.

Some 280,000 Afghans have returned home from Pakistan so far this year, bringing to more than 2.5 million the number that has repatriated since early 2002.

 

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