Return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

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.