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Pakistan: Resumption of voluntary returns to Afghanistan

Briefing notes

Pakistan: Resumption of voluntary returns to Afghanistan

2 March 2007

UNHCR yesterday (Thursday) resumed the voluntary repatriation of Afghans in Pakistan after the winter break, with new arrangements linked to the recently-concluded registration exercise that counted over 2.1 million Afghans in Pakistan.

This year, assisted returns will take place in two phases. From March 1 to April 15, Afghans who did not register and thus do not have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards can approach UNHCR's Voluntary Repatriation Centres in Pakistan if they wish to be assisted home with UNHCR assistance after passing the standard iris-verification test. The government of Pakistan has said that after April 15, Afghans with no PoR cards will be subject to the laws of the land.

Phase two of assisted repatriation is for Afghans with PoR cards. From April 16 to November 15, those who wish to return to Afghanistan can deregister themselves from the registration database and have their PoR cards physically invalidated at the Voluntary Repatriation Centres in Pakistan. After passing the iris test to ensure they have not previously received UNHCR assistance, they will receive the package of travel and reintegration assistance at an Encashment Centre in Afghanistan.

More than 2.87 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan to Afghanistan with UNHCR assistance since 2002. This year marks the sixth year of the largest such operation in the refugee agency's history. The planning figure for returns from Pakistan and Iran in 2007 is 250,000 Afghan returnees.