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220 Afghans return home from Pakistan

News Stories, 4 July 2001

ISLAMABAD The first group of Afghan refugees to return home from Pakistan this year with UNHCR assistance left on Tuesday for Kandahar in south-western Afghanistan.

The 220 people in 41 families who had been living in Pakistan for 20 years departed from Pishin in Baluchistan province. They organized their own transport using funds from UNHCR, whose staff also negotiated the border crossing with Taliban authorities.

Inside Afghanistan, UNHCR staff in Kandahar will escort the returnees to their home areas. Each returning family is expected to receive 6,000 Pakistani rupees ($90) and a plastic tarpaulin, plus 150 kg of wheat flour provided by the World Food Programme.

UNHCR halted the returnee convoys from Pakistan last November when it ran out of funds. In recent months, Afghans in the south-western Pakistan city of Quetta have been protesting outside UNHCR's office and calling on the agency to restart repatriation.

Last year, more than 76,800 Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan with UNHCR help.

Pakistan and Iran each shelter some 2 million Afghan refugees. Even though more than 4 million Afghans have returned home since 1989, a constantly evolving conflict has led to new refugee flows. Afghans remain the world's largest refugee group.

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UNHCR country pages

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

With winter fast approaching and well over a million people reported homeless in quake-stricken Pakistan, UNHCR and its partners are speeding up the delivery and distribution of hundreds of tonnes of tents, blankets and other relief supplies from around the world.

In all, the NATO-UNHCR airlift, which began on 19 October, will deliver a total of 860 tonnes of supplies from our stockpiles in Iskenderun, Turkey. Separately, by 25 October, UNHCR-chartered aircraft had so far delivered 14 planeloads of supplies to Pakistan from the agency's stocks in Copenhagen, Dubai and Jordan.

On the ground, UNHCR is continuing to distribute aid supplies in the affected areas to help meet some of the massive needs of an estimated 3 million people.

Pakistan Earthquake: A Race Against the Weather

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.
Pakistan: Helping the HostsPlay video

Pakistan: Helping the Hosts

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Balochistan province have access to schools and basic services, but the cost is not easy to bear.
Afghanistan HomecomingPlay video

Afghanistan Homecoming

Since 2002, UNHCR has helped nearly 4 million Afghan refugees to return home from Pakistan. Recently, Ahmed Shafiq made the journey with his family after 15 years as a refugee. This is his story.