UN aid for Afghan refugees repatriating from Pakistan set to resume
30 March 2009 - Afghan refugees seeking to return to their home country from north-west Pakistan will receive a boost when the United Nations resumes its voluntary repatriation programme this week.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) traditionally suspends its scheme during the winter months when few people decide to return to Afghanistan.
The agency’s repatriation programme for registered Afghans in Peshawar, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, will kick off on 1 April, while the start date for returnees from Quetta, further south in Pakistan, will be announced later.
A large-scale voluntary return programme from Pakistan and Iran began in 2002, following the fall of the Taliban, and 4.4 million Afghans have returned home to date. Last year, 280,000 refugees repatriated under the initiative, and UNHCR predicts that some 220,000 others may opt to return this year.
Registered Afghans repatriating with UNHCR’s help will receive around $100 per person as a transportation and re-integration grant to help them settle in Afghanistan.
Last month, the Pakistani Government reached an agreement with UNHCR to allow some 1.7 million Afghans to continue sheltering in their country until the end of 2012.
There are still nearly 3 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, most of whom have been in exile for over two decades.