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Pakistan: Registration for return of Afghans in North Waziristan completed

Briefing notes

Pakistan: Registration for return of Afghans in North Waziristan completed

1 July 2005

UNHCR on Thursday completed registering Afghans who wish to repatriate because of the closure of refugee camps in the troubled North Waziristan region of Pakistan. At least 85 percent of the camp population has chosen to return to Afghanistan rather than re-locate in other camps in Pakistan.

More than 27,500 people have opted for voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan following the Government of Pakistan's announcement a month ago that the North Waziristan camps would be closed at the end of June. There were an estimated 32,000 Afghans living in a dozen camps in the unruly region bordering Afghanistan, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), at the time of the announcement.

Nearly 60,000 Afghans lived in North Waziristan, including outside the camps, before the announcement was made. Those who wish to repatriate can receive the UNHCR assistance that is available to all Afghans in Pakistan under the voluntary repatriation programme. Returning Afghans receive a travel grant and a per capita grant to help them re-establish themselves in Afghanistan.

UNHCR supported the closing of the camps in North Waziristan because of security concerns - the area has been the scene of continuing clashes between the Pakistani army and rebel tribesmen linked to fighting in Afghanistan - that have made it impossible to properly service the refugees. The closure of camps also parallels the fall in the Afghan population in Pakistan since the repatriation programme began in 2002. So far UNHCR has assisted more than 2.4 million Afghans to return home from Pakistan, including 178,000 Afghans who have gone this year.

Two camps in Balochistan province will also close this year, Jungle Pir Alizai at the end of July and Girdi Jungle at the end of August. The government has also announced it intends to close the remaining camps in FATA as of 30 August.