Iran/Afghanistan: 57,000 have returned since April
More than 57,000 Afghans have returned home since the beginning a six-month voluntary repatriation programme from Iran that began on April 8. Last week, a total of 4,680 Afghans returned home under the joint programme between Iran and UNHCR. Refugees register for voluntary return at three operational centres - Tehran, Mashhad and Zahedan. Return convoys run three days a week, on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. To date, there have been 43 convoys from Tehran; 42 convoys from Mashad; 12 convoys from Zahedan; and four convoys from Kerman. Single convoys have also been run from Kashan and Esfahan.
A total of 78.5% of the Afghan returnees said they were returning to one of three cities - Herat, Kabul or Ghazni. A breakdown by ethnic group shows that Tajiks, Pashtuns and Hazarahs compose more than 94% of the returnees. UNHCR's partners in the return programme include IOM, MDM, IRC, WHO and UNICEF. MSF France also coordinates on health issues.
Screening of those Afghans who think they have valid reasons not to return to Afghanistan is the second component of the Joint Programme for the Repatriation of Afghan Refugees in Iran. The joint interview teams, each composed of one representative of the government (BAFIA) and one from UNHCR, examine the cases asking for protection. Should the decision of the interview team be negative, the claimant can lodge an appeal. Persons accepted will be given temporary documents which will give them the same rights as documented Afghans. Six Protection Screening Centres are now operational, in Mashad, Zahedan, Esfahan, Yazd, Shiraz and Kerman. As of last week, a total of 9,112 cases have been interviewed (almost 46,000 individuals). A total of 3,180 cases have been accepted, 3,849 cases rejected and 3,268 cases are pending.