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Tajikistan deports nine Afghan refugees amid UNHCR protest

News Stories, 20 September 2002

© UNHCR/A.Hollmann
Afghan refugees in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. More than 9,200 Afghans in the Central Asian country have gone home voluntarily in recent months; some 3,000 remain.

GENEVA, September 20 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has protested against the detention and subsequent deportation of nine Afghan refugees from Tajikistan, arguing that these individuals could face grave danger back in Afghanistan.

"UNHCR is very concerned about the fate of nine Afghan refugees who were deported back to their homeland early Tuesday by the Tajikistan government," said the agency's spokesman, Kris Janowski, at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

On Monday, 10 refugees, all men, were separated from their families and detained by the Tajik authorities. Among the nine who were deported on Tuesday, was reportedly a minor, a 17-year-old boy. The remaining refugee is still in detention.

UNHCR has written to the Tajik authorities protesting the detention and deportation of these refugees, individuals who may face grave danger back in Afghanistan because of their association with previous Afghan regimes. They may still fear for their safety if sent back to Afghanistan, said the refugee agency.

Tajikistan suspended the screening for refugee status determination two years ago, leaving refugees there in a particularly precarious situation.

"Without a status determination procedure, Afghan refugees in Tajikistan find themselves in a legal limbo. This, we believe, must be corrected immediately," said Janowski.

More than 9,200 Afghan refugees in Tajikistan have returned home voluntarily in recent months. The latest UNHCR-assisted repatriation took place on Wednesday, when some 50 persons were helped home. Some 3,000 Afghan refugees remain in Tajikistan.

Noting recent improvements in Afghanistan including the establishment of the Transitional Authority under President Hamid Karzai which have helped to encourage more than 1.7 million people to return home voluntarily, Janowski nonetheless cautioned, "This is not the time to force any recognised refugees to return to Afghanistan."

He explained that tension persists in certain areas of Afghanistan, particularly the north and the eastern border regions near Pakistan. Factional fighting continues between troops allied to various commanders, while more than 920,000 people are still internally displaced and unable to return to their home areas.

"We believe that the winter will pose a particular hardship for more than 560,000 people, and we are trying to stockpile emergency supplies of blankets, stoves, tents and plastic tarpaulins," said Janowski, adding that food stocks for the millions of impoverished Afghans are also limited.




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

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