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High Commissioner to visit Afghanistan next week

Briefing notes

High Commissioner to visit Afghanistan next week

7 January 2005

High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers leaves next week for a four-day visit to Afghanistan, where he is scheduled to meet with President Hamid Karzai and several ministers of the newly-appointed Afghan Cabinet. The High Commissioner will be discussing ways that the reconstruction process in Afghanistan can be sustained in order to encourage more Afghan refugees to return home and ensure their successful, long-term reintegration.

The High Commissioner will travel to the western city of Herat to meet the new provincial Governor and visit a nearby village where UNHCR has been running a shelter-building programme for Afghan families recently returned to the country. He will be talking with some of these families about the challenges they faced upon their return. Lubbers will also meet the governor of Kandahar province and go to an IDP camp where UNHCR is providing assistance for some 50,000 Afghans displaced within their own country.

The High Commissioner will stop in Islamabad en route to Kabul and is scheduled to hold talks with the Pakistani Prime Minister and several other high-ranking officials dealing with refugee issues. Despite the return of more than 3.5 million Afghans since the start of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme in 2002, an estimated 1.8 million Afghans still live in Pakistan and just under 1 million are in Iran. During his tour of the region, the High Commissioner will focus on the need to find solutions for this longstanding refugee situation and to develop new approaches to managing population movements within the region.