Afghanistan: Efforts to screen out false claimants
The number of Afghan refugees returning from Iran topped 100,000 on Sunday, just over three months after the Iranian authorities and UNHCR began a voluntary repatriation programme.
Under the programme, more than 1.3 million Afghan refugees have voluntarily repatriated to Afghanistan from neighbouring countries since March 1 - some 1.2 million from Pakistan alone. Another 10,000 refugees have returned from Central Asian states. Another 200,000 Afghans repatriated outside the programme since the fall of the Taliban late last year.
Repatriation rates from Pakistan have begun to ease in recent weeks, with some 53,000 refugees registering to return last week, down from more than 77,000 the week before.
To prevent possible abuse of repatriation assistance packages, our staff interview refugees at our registration centres prior to their return home. Since the facilitated repatriation initiative began in March, UNHCR workers in Pakistan have rejected more than 50,000 heads of households who did not appear willing to go back for good. Those rejected seemed interested in collecting UNHCR's travel assistance grants and family kits along with UN World Food Programme (WFP) food rations. UNHCR staff inside Afghanistan similarly scrutinise returnees prior to handing over assistance to better ensure that their repatriation is permanent. Efforts to screen out false claimants have saved UNHCR some $5 million in travel assistance along with the cost of more than 50,000 family kits, plus some 6,000 metric tons of WFP food aid.