Afghanistan/Pakistan: tripartite meeting on Monday
The governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR will meet on Monday in Islamabad for the regular review of the repatriation of Afghans living in Pakistan. The parties to the March 2003 tripartite agreement on repatriation will discuss a broad range of issues, including our 2004 voluntary repatriation programmed and ongoing work to consolidate the limited number of "new" camps set up in Pakistan to house the refugees who fled war in Afghanistan in late 2001.
The participants will discuss a proposed census and registration of all Afghans living in Pakistan. A working group has been examining the procedures and requirements that would be needed for such an exercise later this year but no conclusions have yet been reached. The Tripartite Commission, which was established a year ago, will also discuss conditions inside Afghanistan affecting the return of refugees from Pakistan, including plans for elections this year, economic developments and security.
Earlier this week, UNHCR closed the first of the "new" refugee camps slated for consolidation over the next two years. The last of the 9,000 residents of Shalman Camp near the Khyber Pass moved on 21 March, with slightly more than half the refugees relocated to Kotkai Camp in Bajaur Agency and the rest choosing to repatriate. The Tripartite Commission will also review plans, already approved in principle, for further consolidation of the "new" camps established to shelter the 2001 wave of refugees in both North West Frontier Province and Balochistan. That includes closing a cluster of camps along the Pakistani-Afghan border near the city of Chaman in Balochistan, with residents offered a choice of repatriation or relocation to another refugee camp.
About 20,000 refugees have returned from Pakistan since UNHCR resumed assisting repatriation at the beginning of this March, a higher pace than last year. Some 400,000 Afghans are expected to return from Pakistan during all of 2004. UNHCR estimates there are about 1.1 million refugees in official camps in Pakistan who have arrived in waves over the past quarter century. In addition, there are a substantial but unknown number of Afghans living elsewhere in Pakistan.