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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.




UNHCR country pages

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

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

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Croatia; Destination UnknownPlay video

Croatia; Destination Unknown

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.