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Afghanistan: Over 300,000 have returned with UNHCR help this year

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: Over 300,000 have returned with UNHCR help this year

29 July 2003

UNHCR has assisted more than 300,000 Afghan refugees to return home this year in convoys from Pakistan and [the Islamic Republic of] Iran. More than 50,000 other refugees have spontaneously repatriated from Iran over the same period, putting the total number of returns since the first of year to more than 350,000.

Despite ongoing security problems in parts of the country and tremendous development and economic needs, Afghan refugees are still going back in significant numbers. Returns assisted by UNHCR and the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation have averaged more than 20,000 weekly since May, only beginning to experience a summertime dip in the last week, when 14,000 facilitated returns from Pakistan and Iran were recorded.

Each returning family receives a UNHCR aid package and food from the World Food Programme. This year, UNHCR plans to provide 60,000 housing repair kits to Afghans going home with its assistance. Already, more than 12,700 families have begun work using their UNHCR shelter construction kits.

Repatriation to Afghanistan this year is well below the unprecedented level of 2002, when more than 1.8 million repatriated with assistance from UNHCR and its humanitarian partners. At the height of returns to Afghanistan in May 2002, more than 20,000 people were repatriating daily

Iran and Pakistan have hosted millions of Afghan refugees since 1980. UNHCR believes there were 1.1 million Afghan refugees in Iran and 1.2 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan at the start of this year. Both countries also have large numbers of Afghan nationals who are not considered refugees.