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Afghanistan returns this year pass half-million mark

Briefing notes

Afghanistan returns this year pass half-million mark

30 July 2004

The number of Afghan refugees going back home this year passed the half million mark this week, with more than 273,000 returning from Iran and over 230,000 from Pakistan. An additional 300 Afghans have returned from 13 other countries, including India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Austria.

Since UNHCR began facilitating returns in early 2002, more than 2.1 million Afghans have repatriated from Pakistan and over 920,000 have returned from Iran. The pace of returns from both countries continues to be strong, and should continue through August as refugees head home for the start of the Afghan school year or as they complete harvests in asylum countries.

UNHCR and its partners have also assisted 443,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) return to their home areas since 2002. There are still more than 180,000 displaced persons in Afghanistan, with many living in camp-like situations in Kandahar and Herat provinces where they receive assistance. The greatest numbers of IDPs are in southern Afghanistan where Zhare Dasht and Spin Boldak encampments are located, sheltering about 145,000 IDPs. In the west there are some 20,000 IDPs with a further 9,000 in the north and more than 5,000 each in both the east and south-eastern provinces.

Afghan refugees returning with UNHCR assistance get a travel grant, plus a small cash grant to provide for basic needs on arrival. Payment is made at UNHCR offices inside Afghanistan. All refugees in Pakistan over the age of six who want to repatriate must go through a computerised iris recognition check before leaving to ensure that they do not receive assistance more than once.