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Afghanistan: IDP returns

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: IDP returns

3 May 2002

In Afghanistan, thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are returning to villages they fled because of the combined effects of war and drought, but the country still hosts some one million IDPs.

UNHCR is spearheading a programme in Afghanistan aimed at assisting IDPs who are able to return to their areas of origin. In partnership with the Ministry of Repatriation, IOM and GTZ, UNHCR plans to assist as many as 400,000 IDPs to return to their homes this year. We are currently carrying out a country-wide exercise to register IDPs, collect information on their home areas, and organise a return programme.

Already some 150,000 displaced Afghans have gone home with the support of UNHCR and IOM. Another estimated 400,000 are known to have spontaneously returned to their villages since the fall of the Taliban last year.

This week, UNHCR and IOM organized the first major movement from Kabul to Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan. In a survey carried out in the capital in March, some 150,000 IDPs - from virtually every province of the country - expressed the desire to return home. In recent days, some 500 IDPs have been transported to Bamiyan. Earlier in the year, some 15,000 persons were helped to return to the Shomali Plain under a joint UNHCR-IOM operation from the ex-Soviet embassy compound.

UNHCR has moved more than 5,500 IDPs from Hesar Shahi camp near Jalalabad back to their villages in Nangarhar, Laghman and Kabul provinces. Hesari Shahi has been home to more than 24,000 IDPs for the last three years.

Finding a durable solution for the 400,000 IDPs in southern Afghanistan is one of the biggest challenges facing the humanitarian community. Beginning next week, UNHCR and GTZ will start to repatriate some of the 40,000 IDPs living in five makeshift camps near the southern border post of Spin Boldak. But many of them may not be able to return home soon, among them many ethnic Pashtuns who were forced from their homes in northern Afghanistan earlier this year, while others are nomads who lost everything in the devastating drought that has ravaged the region.