Afghan Conference: Reports of stability key to refugee's return decision

News Stories, 1 May 2012

© UNHCR/A.Ghahreman
Abdol Ali Din Mohammad with his wife and one of their eight daughters at the UNHCR voluntary repatriation centre in the Iranian city of Dogharoun earlier this week.

DOGHAROUN, Iran, May 1 (UNHCR) Days before delegates gather in Geneva this week for an international conference on Afghan refugees, UNHCR spoke to Abdol Ali Din Mohammad, who lived in exile in Iran for 13 years. He returned to his home in Faryab province last week with his wife and eight daughters. UNHCR Repatriation Assistant Anahita Ghahreman met Abdol as he was registering his return at a voluntary repatriation centre in the city of Dogharoun in south-eastern Iran. Extracts from the interview:

Why have you decided to return to Afghanistan?

We have heard that the security situation has significantly improved in Afghanistan and that war no longer persists. Therefore we have decided to return to our home town.

What do you expect life to be like back in your village?

When we used to live there everything was in turmoil, everyone was at odds with each other and war had taken over the country. However, we have been told that this is no longer the case and that a sense of peace and stability has become apparent.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to help my fellow countrymen rebuild our country and make it a better place to live.

Can you describe your life as a refugee in Iran?

The Iranian government and its people have been very hospitable and good to us. They have provided us with a home away from home for the past 30 years. We were very happy with the situation and grateful for their kindness.

In your opinion, what is preventing other refugees from returning to Afghanistan?

I think it is because of a lack of security in some parts of the country; there is still fighting in some areas. The other problem is that because the refugees are unable to go to Afghanistan to see how much the situation has improved, they cannot come back and take their families to Afghanistan, so they decide not to leave Iran.

What message would you send to the conference delegates in Geneva?

I would ask that they help refugees as much as possible so that all refugees are able to return home to Afghanistan.

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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.

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