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Consolidation Of Afghan Refugee Camps In Pakistan

Consolidation Of Afghan Refugee Camps In Pakistan Accelerates – UN

New York, Jun 21 2005 5:00PM

The United Nations refugee agency and the Government of Pakistan are stepping up efforts to consolidate Afghan refugee camps in the country, announcing that two camps in Balochistan province will close in addition to those in the troubled tribal belt already scheduled for closure.

In all, the camp closures could affect some 110,000 Afghan refugees in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says. The closures have continued in parallel with the repatriation operation that began in 2002 and has helped 2.4 million Afghans to go home, the agency's largest such programme anywhere in the world. Some 400,000 are expected to return from Pakistan this year.

The decision to close two camps, Jungle Pir Alizai by July 31 and Girdi Jungle, by August 31 – with residents given the choice of returning under the UN voluntary repatriation programme or relocating to another existing camp elsewhere in Pakistan – is the latest in a series of moves prompted by more than three years of repatriation to Afghanistan.

UNHCR says that the process is focusing first on closing camps where security problems have obstructed access and delivery of services. The government announced earlier this month that all refugee camps in North Waziristan, a tribal area on the Afghan border where the army is battling militants, would close by the end of June.

Last year, with more Afghans drawn home by improving conditions, all the "new" camps in Pakistan established to shelter Afghans fleeing the 2001 war in Afghanistan were closed.

At the start of this year, there were nearly 150 refugee camps in Pakistan with some 1.1 million residents. Just over 3 million Afghans lived in Pakistan, including camps. More than 580,000 Afghans have gone home from camps since the voluntary repatriation programme began in 2002.

ENDS

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