UN refugee chief to visit Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran

18 November 2005

The new head of the United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday begins his first official visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, where his office has assisted 3.5 million out of the more than 4.4 million Afghans who have returned home from the two host countries since 2002, the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today.

The new head of the United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday begins his first official visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, where his office has assisted 3.5 million out of the more than 4.4 million Afghans who have returned home from the two host countries since 2002, the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today.

High Commissioner António Guterres, who assumed his position this past June, plans to travel first to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he has meetings scheduled with several Afghan Government officials and UNHCR staff to discuss the repatriation and reintegration operation in the country, the agency’s largest.

He will also be briefed about the longer-term prospects for Afghanistan's reconstruction, which is crucial for any successful return programme, the agency said.

On Wednesday, he will travel to the eastern city of Jalalabad, where he will visit recent returnees, UNHCR staff and local officials.

Mr. Guterres arrives in Pakistan on Thursday for a two-day visit that is expected to include an inspection of UNHCR's emergency operations for the victims of the devastating 8 October earthquake, as well as meetings with several senior Pakistani Government officials, donors and UN and non-governmental organizations.

More than 3 million Afghan refugees remain outside their country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, where Mr. Guterres is scheduled to arrive on Saturday. In both countries of asylum, the High Commissioner will discuss with Government officials the future prospects for those Afghans who may wish to remain.

He is scheduled to return to the Geneva headquarters of UNHCR on November 28.

 

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