Afghan earthquake survivors go home from Iran
TEHRAN, Iran, Jan 13 (UNHCR) - Hundreds of Afghan refugees who lost their homes in the recent Iran earthquake have returned to Afghanistan with help from the UN refugee agency and its Iranian government counterpart.
On Tuesday, 365 Afghan refugees who survived the December 26 earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam arrived back in their homeland on a UNHCR convoy.
They had approached the agency to help them go back to Afghanistan after losing their homes in the devastating earthquake, which reportedly killed 30,000 people.
The returning group included people who were hurt in the quake and others who lost loved ones. Among them was an eight-year-old boy travelling with his uncle after his parents and siblings died in the disaster. There were also four Afghans on their way home after rushing to Bam to check on their families in the wake of the quake.
Iran's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants (BAFIA) waived the usual repatriation fee of $4 per person as the refugees were processed and received mine-awareness training at the Dogharoun border. Once back in Afghanistan, the returnees proceeded to their home areas in Kabul and the provinces of Parwan, Balkh and Saripul.
Tuesday's returnees from Bam joined hundreds of other Afghan survivors who have gone back to Afghanistan on their own in recent weeks, many of them accompanying the bodies of their loved ones back to their homeland for burial.
UNHCR has been unable to confirm the death toll among the 3,300 registered Afghan refugees living among the local population in Bam.
Meanwhile, a separate group of refugees left Iran for Iraq on Monday. The UN refugee agency repatriated 303 Iraqi refugees from Bani Najjar camp to the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where they received blankets, plastic sheeting, stoves, food, and where necessary, tents.
In all, more than 1,100 Iraqi refugees have returned from Iran since UNHCR began organising repatriation in November last year. Thousands more have gone back to Iraq on their own since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government last April.