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Italian Government contributes EUR 3 million to assist returning Afghans

Crisis in Afghanistan, 2 July 2007

UNHCR Kabul Press Information, 2 July 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR at the UNAMA press briefing in Kabul, attributable to UN refugee agency spokesman M. Nadir Farhad, UNHCR Public Information Section, Kabul, Afghanistan.

KABUL, 2 July 2007 (UNHCR) The UN Refugee Agency warmly welcomes an Italian donation of EUR 3 million (over US$3.97 million) to support the agency's programmes in Afghanistan. The generous contribution comes at a time when UNHCR's programme, mainly the assisted repatriation programme, is facing a serious shortage of funds.

Last week, the Italian Government signed an agreement confirming its support to one of UNHCR's largest operations in the world. The bulk of the funding will go to travel and reintegration cash grants for Afghans returning from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. "We are very grateful for the continued Italian support," said Mr. Salvatore Lombardo, UNHCR's Representative in Afghanistan. "This is another expression of Italy's long term commitment to the most deprived Afghans."

This includes over US$ 1.5 million to assist returnees through projects to provide basic health facilities, assistance for women at risk and extremely vulnerable individuals, income generation activities and some 1,000 shelters in addition to the 10,000 that have already been planned. Over US$2 million will go towards facilitating the voluntary repatriation of Afghans from Pakistan and Iran in 2007.

"Refugee return is a top priority for us and the Italian Government. We are committed to assisting the most vulnerable Afghans at the time when the country may be confronted with an increased number of returnees," said Italian Ambassador Mr. Ettore Francesco Sequi. Since 2002, the Italian Government has contributed more than EUR 18 million to UNHCR's operations in Afghanistan.

Since UNHCR started assisting returns to Afghanistan in 2002, some 4 million Afghans have been helped home from neighbouring countries, including over 3 million from Pakistan and some 860,000 from Iran. Another 1.1 million have returned home on their own. In addition, the refugee agency has assisted half a million internally displaced Afghans to return to their areas of origin.

Returnees from Pakistan and Iran receive travel and initial reintegration assistance, currently averaging $100 per person. In Afghanistan, UNHCR helps them to settle in through activities that include returnee monitoring, shelter support and income-generating projects and the protection of vulnerable groups like women at risk.

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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

Home Without Land

Land is hot property in mountainous Afghanistan, and the lack of it is a major reason Afghans in exile do not want to return.

Although landless returnees are eligible for the Afghan government's land allocation scheme, demand far outstrips supply. By the end of 2007, the authorities were developing 14 settlements countrywide. Nearly 300,000 returnee families had applied for land, out of which 61,000 had been selected and 3,400 families had actually moved into the settlements.

Desperate returnees sometimes have to camp in open areas or squat in abandoned buildings. Others occupy disputed land where aid agencies are not allowed to build permanent structures such as wells or schools.

One resilient community planted itself in a desert area called Tangi in eastern Afghanistan. With help from the Afghan private sector and the international community, water, homes, mosques and other facilities have sprouted – proof that the right investment and commitment can turn barren land into the good earth.

Posted on 31 January 2008

Home Without Land

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.