Number of voluntary returns to Afghanistan this year tops 100,000

News Stories, 27 August 2010

© UNHCR/R.Ali
Packed up and Ready to Roll: An Afghan familiy heads off from a voluntary repatriation centre in Pakistan earlier this year.

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 27 (UNHCR) The number of people returning voluntarily to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran so far this year has exceeded 100,000, almost twice as many as last year. Some 95,000 of these are from Pakistan.

The Afghanistan voluntary repatriation programme remains UNHCR's largest worldwide, with some 4.5 million people having returned to Afghanistan since 2002. As the figures of the past few years show, the number of returns can vary significantly from year-to-year.

As part of its monitoring responsibilities, UNHCR conducts interviews with returning Afghans to assess the reasons for returns. This year, the most oft-cited factors have been economic reasons, difficulties in Pakistan, and local improvements in security in some parts of Afghanistan.

Overall, almost 70 per cent of the returnees come from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the north-west, with the rest from Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces. A third head to eastern Afghanistan, a further third to the central region and the rest mainly to the north-east.

Separately, in Pakistan, UNHCR is in discussion with the authorities to rehabilitate damaged refugee villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. So far, in flood hit areas, UNHCR has been able to assist around 700,000 people, representing a third of those the agency plans to help.

To speed assistance, UNHCR has set up additional distribution points in the worst-affected areas of Shangla, Swat, Peshawar, Charsadda and Kohistan. We are also in the process of establishing additional hubs and identifying partners to expand our outreach to flood victims in need of help.

Further south, in Sindh, 2,000 families have so far received UNHCR non-food item family kits. UNHCR tents have helped people in Sukkar, Shikarpur and Jacobabad.

According to government officials the number of displaced people in Balochistan has increased to 1.1 million people, including 700,000 from flood-affected parts of Sindh.

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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

UNHCR providing shelter to Pakistan flood victims

The UN refugee agency is stepping up its efforts to distribute tents and other emergency supplies to families left homeless by severe flooding that hit parts of southern Pakistan in 2011. By early October, some 7,000 family tents had been provided to a national aid organization that is constructing small tent villages in southern Sindh province. A similar number of emergency household kits have also been supplied. Though the monsoon rains which caused the flooding have stopped, large areas remain under water and finding sufficient areas of dry land on which to pitch the tents remains a challenge. UNHCR has committed to providing 70,000 tents and relief kits to flood-stricken communities.

UNHCR providing shelter to Pakistan flood victims

Helping Flood Victims in Pakistan

UNHCR teams are distributing tents and other emergency aid to families displaced by severe flooding in Pakistan. More than five million people have been affected by this year's floods and government estimates put the number of families in urgent need of emergency shelter at over 200,000.

In southern Sindh province, which has been particularly hard hit, UNHCR has so far delivered 2,000 tents and 2,000 kits containing jerry cans, blankets and sleeping mats as well as 4,000 plastic sheets to be used for basic shelter. Many of the families displaced by the floods continue to live in makeshift shelters.

Helping Flood Victims in Pakistan

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.
Pakistan: Helping the HostsPlay video

Pakistan: Helping the Hosts

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Pakistan's Balochistan province have access to schools and basic services, but the cost is not easy to bear.
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.