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More Afghans Return Home Despite Concerns

More Afghans Return Home from Pakistan Camps Despite Concerns – UN Refugee Agency

New York, Aug 4 2006 1:00PM

More than 1,000 Afghan refugees, some of whom have lived in camps in Pakistan for more than 25 years, went home this week in one of the year’s biggest return convoys organized by the United Nations refugee agency under its voluntary repatriation programme, which in the past four years has allowed over four million people to go back to Afghanistan.

Shortages of land and shelter in their country are among the biggest obstacles to returning, according to the findings of a census of Afghans in Pakistan conducted last year. But refugees from among the 240 families who left Khaki camp in the North West Frontier Project this week said it was now time to return, according to a news release from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“The elders of Kelagai village living in Khaki camp decided to repatriate because we came to know that some people have occupied our land,” said 60-year-old Omra Khan. “Once we go there, we will ask the Government to help us get it back.”

“I came here because of the Russian invasion of our land and we could not live under those circumstances. I have lived in Pakistan for more than 25 years and now it is time to go back.”

Established in the early 1980s, Khaki camp is home to Afghans from Paktia, Logar, Nangarhar and Laghman provinces, and smaller numbers from Baghlan. Thursday’s returnees were heading to Kelagai village in Doshi district of Baghlan province.

“I want my children to see their own country. They cannot be refugees all their life,” said Muhammad Mir, another refugee who was also travelling in the convoy, before repatriating with his family and frail old mother.

More than 113,000 Afghans have returned home from Pakistan so far this year. Under the assisted return programme, UNHCR offers returning Afghans travel assistance that varies from $4 to $37 per person depending on the distance, and a cash payment of $12 per person to help them re-establish themselves in Afghanistan. The assistance is paid on arrival.

Since UNHCR started facilitating returns to Afghanistan in 2002, more than 2.85 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan and more than 1.4 million others from Iran. An estimated 2.5 million Afghans remain in Pakistan and over 900,000 in Iran.

ENDS

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