Afghanistan repatriation: another 1,000+ return
Another 1,209 Afghans repatriated home Thursday from Iran, bringing the total number of those who have returned since the joint voluntary repatriation programme began on 8 April to 21, 678. The programme, which will run for six months, offers two options for undocumented Afghans in Iran:
- Voluntary repatriation for those who wish to return. Afghans who opt to return are provided with material assistance and a free passage home.
- Afghans who are unable to return can submit their claims at screening centres, where they will be assessed by joint UNHCR and Iran teams and those considered in need of protection allowed to stay in Iran.
To date, there have been 20 returnee convoys from Tehran with 9,885 refugees,19 convoys from Mashad with 10,842 and four convoys from Zahedan with 951. Returnees receive an assistance package consisting of a cash grant equivalent to $40, as well as 50 kgs of wheat, jerry cans, plastic sheets and free transport to Herat. From there onwards, they are provided with subsidised transport to some of the major towns in Afghanistan.
Thousands of Afghans seeking protection in Iran have been approaching the Zahedan Screening Centre, leading to long queues and delays. Applicants are now being directed to the local BAFIA (Bureau for Alien and Foreign Immigrants' Affairs) office, where they can file their claims and obtain appointment slips. This has considerably eased the congestion and reduced the pressure at the centre. As a result, screeners have been able to examine more cases. A total 14,025 cases (some 55,000 individuals) have been submitted since 19 April, with appointments stretching to January 2001. Of these, nearly 3,000 have been processed, of whom 894 have been accepted as in need of protection and 495 rejected.