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UNHCR expresses concern over deportation of 750 Afghans from Dubai

News Stories, 26 February 2002

GENEVA, Feb. 26 (UNHCR) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday it was concerned at the deportation over the weekend of about 750 Afghans from Dubai and criticized its lack of access to those expelled.

The agency also said it was "reviewing the circumstances" of the action with the appropriate authorities and called for an end to any further expulsions.

"Without having access to forcible returnees such as these we cannot be sure if there may have been individuals with human rights and refugee protection concerns among the group," a UNHCR spokesman, Kris Janowski, told a news briefing in Geneva.

The agency said that the 750 Afghans, almost all men, were flown back to Kabul on Saturday aboard two Boeing 747 aircraft. It said that with about 1,000 Afghans expelled earlier this year from Iran and Pakistan, Saturday's expulsion almost doubled the number of Afghans forced to return to their homeland.

"This is not the time for any state to deport Afghans," Janowski added. "Returns to Afghanistan must be paced to the country's absorption capacity, and returnees must be given the assistance to rebuild their communities, not simply deposited back in their shattered homeland."

"We are concerned because of the circumstances of the deportation, but also because of the situation inside Afghanistan, which is extremely difficult," Janowski added.

The agency said it understood that those deported were part of a larger group of some 2,500 Afghans who have been imprisoned for more than a year for illegally entering the Gulf Emirate.

"We are reviewing the circumstances of Saturday's mass deportation with the authorities concerned," Janowski said. "We are calling for the suspension of the deportation of Afghans back to their shattered homeland."

The agency said that while it would actively help those who want to return beginning Friday, it had no plans to organize repatriation convoys. UNHCR will register those who want to go home and provide them with return kits including food, as well as with money for transportation.

The refugee agency expects to assist 1.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons to return to their homes this year.




UNHCR country pages

Afghan Refugees in Iran

At a recent conference in Geneva, the international community endorsed a "solutions strategy" for millions of Afghan refugees and those returning to Afghanistan after years in exile. The plan, drawn up between Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and UNHCR, aims to support repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries.

It will benefit refugee returnees to Afghanistan as well as 3 million Afghan refugees, including 1 million in Iran and 1.7 million in Pakistan.

Many of the refugees in Iran have been living there for more than three decades. This photo set captures the lives of some of these exiles, who wait in hope of a lasting solution to their situation.

Afghan Refugees in Iran

More focus needed on reintegration of former Afghan refugees

Many of the more than 5.5 million Afghan refugees who have returned home since 2002 are still struggling to survive. Lack of land, job opportunities and other services, combined with poor security in some places, has caused many returnees to head to urban areas. While cities offer the promise of informal day labour, the rising cost of rental accommodation and basic commodities relegate many returnees to life in one of the informal settlements which have mushroomed across Kabul in recent years. Some families are living under canvases and the constant threat of eviction, while others have gained a toe-hold in abandoned buildings around the city.

UNHCR gives humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable, and is currently rallying support from donors and humanitarian and development agencies to redouble efforts to help returning refugees reintegrate in Afghanistan.

More focus needed on reintegration of former Afghan refugees

Angelina Jolie promotes reintegration of Afghan returnees

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie in March 2011 returned to Afghanistan. On her second trip to the country, the acclaimed actress called for greater focus to be put on the reintegration of former refugees. More than 5.5 million refugees have returned since 2002, mainly from Pakistan and Iran, and now make up 20 per cent of the population. UNHCR is concerned that too many of these refugees continue to live without jobs, shelter and other basic needs.

Jolie caught up with several families she had met in 2008, still living in a dilapidated warehouse in Kabul. She was moved to see the families struggling to survive in the cold damp building. Children spend their days washing cars for money instead of attending school; the old and sick told Jolie of their pain to be such a burden on the young.

The actress also visited returned refugees living on the Alice Ghan and Barikab land allocation schemes north of Kabul. The returnees told her they were grateful for their houses but needed help with livelihoods. Jolie also visited Qala Gadu village, where she is funding the construction of a girls' primary school.

Angelina Jolie promotes reintegration of Afghan returnees

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.
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.
Afghanistan: Mariam's StoryPlay video

Afghanistan: Mariam's Story

Mariam was a refugee in Iran for six years. The widow and mother returned in 2002 and has been internally displaced ever since. Her situation is very uncertain.