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Afghanistan: first returns from Kyrgyzstan

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: first returns from Kyrgyzstan

4 June 2002

More than 870,000 Afghans have returned home since the UNHCR/Afghanistan Interim Authority repatriation programme got underway in March. In addition, since late November last year, we estimate that some 150,000 other Afghans have returned spontaneously. Most of the assisted returnees - some 800,000 - have arrived from Pakistan.

The newest asylum country to see its Afghans start to leave is Kyrgyzstan, where 33 Afghans boarded buses yesterday for a two-day trip home that will take them through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan shelters some 2,000 Afghan refugees, of whom about 100 so far have said that they're ready to go home. UNHCR provides transport for the refugees, and the Kazakh and Uzbek authorities have been cooperative in making the necessary transit arrangements. The Kazakh government provides free transit visas.

Repatriation movements from Iran continue despite clashes late last week in the south-western Afghan town of Zaranj that forced us to suspend returns via the Miljak crossing point for the second time since the UNHCR/Iranian government Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA) programme got underway on April 9.

Some 63,000 Afghans - 16 percent of the 400,000 goal - have repatriated under the programme, including 3,000 persons who have returned via Zaranj. Though the Miljak/Zaranj crossing is temporarily closed, Afghan refugees in Iran's southern Sisten and Baluchistan Provinces continue to repatriate via an alternative crossing at Islam Qala, a day's drive northwards.

With the start of the assisted repatriation programme from Iran in April, the number of spontaneous returns has declined. A total of 14,553 spontaneous returns have been recorded through the Dogharoun exit station since April 9, compared to the more than 19,400 in January alone.