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Return figures to Afghanistan down to 60,000 in first 10 months

News Stories, 28 October 2011

© UNHCR/J.Tanner
A returnee family gather next to their vegetable patch in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, one of the main areas of return from Pakistan.

KABUL, Afghanistan, October 28 (UNHCR) The number of Afghan refugees returning home with UNHCR help has dropped substantially this year, with some 60,000 repatriating from neighbouring countries in the first 10 months compared to more than 100,000 over the same period in 2010.

The returnees included 43,000 from Pakistan, about 17,000 from Iran and less than 100 from other countries. The return figure for Pakistan was 59 per cent lower than last year, but returns from Iran rose from 7,500 a year earlier.

The lack of livelihood opportunities and shelter, as well as insecurity, are the most frequently cited reasons for not returning. Most Afghan refugees in Pakistan live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces and originate from insecure, undeveloped areas of Afghanistan.

Pakistan is currently home to 1.7 million Afghan refugees, many of whom who have lived in exile for more than a quarter of a century. Half these people were born outside Afghanistan and do not own property there.

The reason for the increase in voluntary assisted returns from Iran appears to be due to economic pressures and the discontinuation of subsidies on basic goods and services by the Iranian government.

To date, the main provinces of return in Afghanistan were Kabul (26 per cent), Nangarhar in the east (14 per cent), the western province of Herat (8 per cent) and Kunduz in the north (8 per cent).

Since March 2002, UNHCR and its government counterparts have assisted 4.6 million Afghans to return home, mainly from Pakistan and Iran. Most have headed back to four main provinces: Kabul (26 per cent); Nangarhar (20 per cent), Kunduz (6 per cent) and Baghlan (5 per cent). In total, 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned alone or with assistance from Pakistan and Iran, representing nearly a quarter of Afghanistan's population.

Despite security problems in parts of the country and economic needs, Afghan refugees are still returning in significant numbers. The government and its partners are working to ensure sustainable reintegration.

But initial findings of a survey launched recently by UNHCR and Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation indicate that around 40 per cent of the returned Afghans have not yet fully reintegrated into their original communities.

Afghanistan's capacity to absorb additional returns is limited. Some families who returned this year will need additional support to make it through the winter. Many others don't have land, shelter, schools and health care. These families need job opportunities to become self-sufficient.

Nearly 3 million registered Afghan refugees remain in exile in the region today, including the 1.7 million in Pakistan and 1 million in Iran. UNHCR is calling for international support to help returnees settle back in their homeland.

The refugee agency, with the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, is developing a multi-year (2012-2014) solutions strategy for Afghan refugees. This will be presented for endorsement by the international community at a conference in early 2012.

By Mohammad Nader Farhad in Kabul, Afghanistan

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Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

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

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.
Angelina Jolie visits Baghdad   Play video

Angelina Jolie visits Baghdad

On her recent trip to the Middle East, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie met internally displaced Iraqis and refugee returnees to Baghdad.
South Sudan: Nearly HomePlay video

South Sudan: Nearly Home

The returnees head by bus for their ancestral home in South Sudan. Some are jubilant. Others are apprehensive.