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Refugees return to Afghanistan

Briefing notes

Refugees return to Afghanistan

24 September 2002

A total of 1,708,578 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under an assistance programme launched on 1 March by UNHCR and governments in the region. The rate of returns has dropped to around 20,000 in the past week from a high of 100,000 per week in May, mainly because of the approaching winter. Around 1.5 million of the returns were from Pakistan.

Since the beginning of the voluntary repatriation operation on 9 April, 267,731 Afghans have left Iran for their homeland. Some 205,000 of them repatriated under UNHCR's assisted programme with Iran, while over 62,700 Afghans have returned on their own.

Dogharoun, in Iran's north-eastern Khorasan Province, with 257,078 Afghan returnees, remains Iran's main border crossing with Afghanistan. Milak, in the south-eastern province of Sistan & Baluchistan, has seen 10,655 Afghans return. UNHCR Iran suspended return convoys through Milak following a shooting incident on 1 September. Operations will resume there when security is ensured.

Also in Iran, a huge fire destroyed UNHCR's warehouse in Mashhad last Wednesday. The warehouse belonged to the Iranian government. UNHCR, UNICEF and Iran lost all food and non - food items in the warehouse. UNHCR has asked authorities to conduct an investigation into the incident. Results of the investigation are expected in the coming days.