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Iran: 134,000 Afghans repatriated this year

Briefing notes

Iran: 134,000 Afghans repatriated this year

22 December 2000

UNHCR staff in Iran repatriated some 134,000 Afghan refugees this year - the largest single return movement of 2000. Under the operation that began in April, UNHCR and IOM organized 275 convoys from the cities of Tehran, Mashhad, Zahedan, Kerman, Isfahan and Qom. The majority of the returnees were transported to Herat and Kabul and other communities in the west of Afghanistan.

Some 1.4 million Afghans refugees remain in Iran, which hosts the world's single biggest refugee population (1.7 million including Iraqi refugees). The Afghan repatriation operation ended the first week of December - three weeks earlier than planned as UNHCR's expatriate staff were temporarily withdrawn from Afghanistan on Dec. 10 in anticipation of UN sanctions against the Taleban announced by the Security Council this week.

In Iran, UNHCR together with the government has been running one of our largest refugee screening operations, and this year interviewed nearly 250,000 previously undocumented people. Some 70,000 Afghans were accepted for continued protection in Iran under UNHCR's mandate.

UNHCR hopes both the repatriation and the screening operations will continue next year. Under its Global 2001 Appeal launched last Friday, UNHCR requires $44 million to care for some 2.5 million Afghan refugees mainly in Iran and Pakistan.

In Pakistan, Afghan new arrivals continue to be registered, with nearly 60,000 new refugees recorded, most arriving mainly since September.

The new arrivals - mostly ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks from Kunduz in north-eastern Afghanistan are fleeing the ongoing fighting between the Taleban and the Northern Alliance forces. They are arriving in poor health, with the children suffering particularly from dysentery and diarrhoea.

Pakistan's New Shamshatoo refugee settlement is now full, with 37,000 new arrivals. Jalozai settlement currently shelters more than 12,000 new arrivals out in the open, in addition to an older caseload of some 128,000 refugees. Other new arrivals are camped in Baluchistan south of Peshawar. UNHCR and the Pakistani government are examining new sites to better shelter the newcomers.

With MSF Holland, UNHCR has started a vaccination programme in Jalozai camp for children under five years old. A mobile clinic has been established in Jalozai and a water system was inaugurated this morning which should help improve health conditions in the camp.