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Afghan returnees in 2006 passes 50,000 mark

Number of Afghan returnees in 2006 passes 50,000 mark – UN refugee agency

The number of Afghan refugees returning home this year from Pakistan under the United Nations refugee agency’s (UNHCR) voluntary repatriation programme is set to pass the 50,000 mark, bringing to some 3 million the total who have left Pakistan in the four-year-old programme, an agency spokesman said today.

The voluntary repatriation of Afghans from both Pakistan and Iran is the largest UNHCR return programme ever, with over 4.5 million Afghans, including 1.47 million from Iran, having made the trip home over the last four years, Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

In Pakistan today, some 1,300 Afghans will pass through UNHCR's Iris Validation Centres in Peshawar and Quetta, where their eyes will be digitally scanned before leaving for Afghanistan to ensure that returnee assistance is only paid once, he said. “Among this group will be returnee No. 50,000 for 2006.”

More than 90 per cent of the repatriated Afghans have had UNHCR assistance, Mr. Redmond said.

Some 2.55 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan and approximately 960,000 in Iran, he added.

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