Afghanistan: border monitors report 3,000 returning daily
More than 3,000 Afghans daily are returning home, UNHCR border monitors report, with more than 72,000 Afghans voluntarily repatriating since the first of the year. Most of the Afghans returned from Pakistan, which has seen 58,000 Afghans cross homewards, while more than 15,000 voluntarily returned from Iran.
UNHCR this week reviewed a draft repatriation agreement with the Afghan Interim Authority's Repatriation Minister, who was enthusiastic about the agreement. Similar discussions are ongoing with the authorities in Iran and Pakistan, and we expect to sign agreements with the Afghans, and with Iran and Pakistan, soon. These agreements would update the 1988 Geneva Accords that helped kick-off a massive repatriation in the late 1980s that saw some 4 million Afghans return home. UNHCR is planning for significant refugee returns this year, but also together with its partners inside Afghanistan will be helping the country's 1.3 million displaced people return to their homes, a mammoth task in this shattered country.
Iran is making very serious preparations for a surge in returnees and cross-border traffic. Roads in the border region around the eastern Iranian town of Dogharoun are being upgraded and resurfaced, parking lots for trucks are being expanded, and bypass roads have been constructed to speed traffic across the frontier. Unfortunately, the infrastructure inside Afghanistan is in ruins. Recent heavy rains in the west have damaged roads and it now takes eight hours travel by truck from the Iranian border to Herat.
UNHCR remains very concerned about the security situation in many parts of Afghanistan, and while the security is slowly improving, more needs to be done. We certainly hope that funds promised for Afghanistan at this week's Tokyo meeting will soon start flowing so that people can lay down their weapons and return to work.