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Return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Crisis in Afghanistan, 16 July 2007

UNHCR Kabul Press Information, 16 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, 16 July (UNHCR) A total of 160 internally displaced families consisting of 800 internally displaced persons, or IDPs, have been assisted to return home so far this year by the UN Refugee Agency and Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation. It has been agreed with the Government of Afghanistan that 2007 should be the last year of assisted return for internally displaced persons.

IDP families mainly from Zhare Dasht camp in Kandahar and Mukhtar camp in Helmand have been assisted to go back to their areas of origin in recent weeks. The operation resumed in June, and the latest convoy on 6 July brought more than 40 families (210 individuals) home to Badghis province in north-western Afghanistan.

In addition to receiving free transportation up to their final destination, the returning families also receive reintegration package (non-food) items which include blankets, jerry cans, plastic tarpaulin and soap and wheat flour from the World Food Programme (WFP).

An additional 200 IDP families (1,100 individuals) have already registered with UNHCR and are waiting to be assisted home. The refugee agency expects that many more families might wish to return in the coming weeks. July and August are usually the time of high IDP returns.

There are an estimated 111,000 internally displaced persons in 4 camps in southern Afghanistan, many of them Kuchis who were forced to give up their nomadic lifestyle due to drought and landlessness. There are also ethnic Pashtuns who fled the Northern provinces more than five years ago due to a fear harassment and severe drought, and stayed in Zhare Dasht, Maiwand and Panjwai camps in Kandahar, and Mukhtar camp in Helmand.

Depending on security conditions, UNHCR plans to assist some 2,500 families, or 15,000 individuals, to return to their places of origin by the end of the year. IDPs with continued protection concerns will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. UNHCR is therefore continuing its dialogue with the local government officials on the possibilities of local settlement for the remaining IDPs.

UNHCR hopes to continue till end of this year with the voluntary return movement from the south to the north. There are still specific areas that UNHCR cannot recommend for return at this time due to poor security. There is an estimated 130,000 internally displaced people in Afghanistan, including some 111,000 in the southern provinces.

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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

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