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High Commissioner in Afghanistan

Crisis in Afghanistan, 17 November 2008

UNHCR Kabul Press Release, 17 November 2008

Kabul, 17 November (UNHCR) High Commissioner António Guterres is travelling to Afghanistan for five days starting today to assess the progress and the continuing challenges in UNHCR's largest repatriation operation worldwide. He will also co-chair an international conference in Kabul to mobilise support for the return and reintegration of Afghan refugees.

In eastern Afghanistan, Mr. Guterres is scheduled to meet with returnees from Pakistan to better understand their needs and concerns. This year, 170,882 registered Afghans returned to the three provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. This accounts for 62% of the overall returns (over 277,000) to Afghanistan in 2008.

More than 30,000 recent returnees are living under tents in five makeshift settlements in the desert. They say they cannot return to their home areas due to a lack of land, shelter and security. They have received emergency supplies from the government, UNHCR and its partners, but will need a longer-term solution beyond this winter.

A possible solution lies in the government's land allocation scheme for landless returnees. There are currently 15 such sites countrywide, most of which are in the initial stages of development. In addition to land distribution, returnees on these sites are in need of basic facilities and services such as shelter, water, clinics, schools and job opportunities.

In western Afghanistan, the High Commissioner will visit several camps for internally displaced Afghans. Most of them fled anti-Pashtun reprisals in the north and north-west after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. More recently, some have been displaced by severe drought in provinces like Badghis.

In Kabul on Wednesday (Nov. 19), Mr. Guterres will co-chair with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta an International Conference on Return and Reintegration of Afghan Refugees. The conference aims to mobilise support for sustainable return, reintegration and related development programmes under the five-year Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS: 2008-2013).

A costed sector strategy for Refugees, Returnees and IDPs under the ANDS will be launched to encourage the use of part of the over $20 billion pledged at the Paris Conference in June, towards supporting returnees and their reintegration in Afghanistan.

Conference participants will include representatives from relevant Afghan ministries, regional governments, the main donor countries and non-governmental organisations.




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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

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

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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