Afghan returns from Pakistan to cross 300,000 this week, says UNHCR
ROGHANI CAMP, Pakistan, Sept 16 (UNHCR) - The first group of Afghan refugees repatriated from Pakistan's Roghani border camp today, drawing this year's voluntary returns from Pakistan to Afghanistan closer to 300,000.
On Tuesday, 37 Afghan families, or some 225 individuals, left Roghani camp on the border of western Pakistan's Balochistan province. The returnees, who intend to settle in Spin Boldak just across the border in Afghanistan, are the first of 705 families from Roghani who have asked for repatriation assistance from the UN refugee agency. The camp's population at the end of July was 17,027.
Roghani camp is one of the "new" camps established on the Pakistan border after the start of the US-led war on the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001. It is among three border camps UNHCR intends to close next March under a consolidation plan agreed in Kabul in late August. Residents of these camps will be given a choice of assisted repatriation or a transfer to another refugee camp inside Pakistan.
At the current rate of repatriation, the number of voluntary returnees from Pakistan to Afghanistan so far this year is expected to cross 300,000 this week. Every day, more than 1,000 Afghans pass through Pakistan's validation centres, where refugees over the age of six must pass through an iris check to detect those who have previously been tested and received UNHCR aid to go home.
At the start of this year, the refugee agency estimated there were 1.2 million Afghan refugees in camps in Pakistan. An unknown but substantial number of Afghans, not all of whom are refugees, live in Pakistani cities.