Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Update on voluntary repatriation movements

Executive Committee Meetings

Update on voluntary repatriation movements

20 March 1995


1. This information paper updates document EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.11 of 6 May 1994 and describes the voluntary repatriation activities undertaken during 1994 and those planned for the remainder of 1995. Statistics on voluntary repatriation movements during 1994, and estimates for 1995, are also provided.

A. Overall estimates for 1995

2. The tentative budgetary estimates for 1995, which are found in Annex 1, now amount to about $ 251.1 million. This amount includes, in some instances, allocations already made from the General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation. By 1 March 1995, these allocations totalled $ 6.3 million. In addition, certain programmes are met through provisions under the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indo-Chinese Refugees (CPA). In most instances, however, costs need to be covered under special funding appeals.

3. The budgetary estimates cover costs for ongoing or new repatriation movements in 1995, as well as limited ongoing assistance in countries of origin to persons who have already returned.

4. In Part II, the voluntary repatriation programmes for 1995 are presented, country-by-country, for ease of reference. A regional approach/appeal may be adopted where this could assure greater flexibility and coherence.

5. The projections for almost all aspects of the various voluntary repatriation movements described in Part II - the timing for the commencement or continuation of repatriation movements, the numbers of repatriants involved and budgetary estimates - are, by necessity, tentative.

6. Annex 1 of document EC/1994/SC.2/CRP.14, which provides an update on programme and funding projections for 1995, shows the adjusted estimates for the various voluntary repatriation programmes, also summarized in Annex 1 of this document.

B. Statistics

7. Statistics for the numbers of repatriants during 1994 under the various Special Programmes described in this document are provided in Annex 2. During 1994, over 1.7 million persons repatriated to their countries of origin, of whom some 670,000 did so with direct UNHCR assistance. Planning figures for 1995, where relevant, are also provided in Annex 2.


A. Africa

1. Angola

1.1 Progress achieved in 1994: During the first half of 1994, UNHCR continued to deliver assistance to returnees and displaced persons in the returnee areas affected by continued fighting. This assistance programme was, however, scaled down in mid-1994, and became limited to emergency activities undertaken with other United Nations agencies within the framework of the United Nations Interagency Consolidated General Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance to Angola.

1.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: With the signing of the Lusaka Peace Accord between the Government of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), it is anticipated that the returnee programme could commence towards the latter half of 1995. It is thus hoped that a consolidated plan of operations for the repatriation and initial reintegration of Angolan refugees will be finalized by mid-1995, followed by the issuance of a special funding appeal. Pending the preparation of this appeal, and to ensure that an adequate initial response capacity is maintained, $ 300,000 have been allocated from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation.

2. Eritrea

2.1 Progress achieved in 1994: Of the estimated 500,000 Eritrean refugees in the Sudan, some 100,000 were reported by the Government of Eritrea to have returned spontaneously between 1992 and 1994. On 16 April 1994, after extensive negotiations, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government of Eritrea and UNHCR for the organized repatriation of Eritrean refugees in various countries of asylum on the basis of the Programme for the Refugee Reintegration and Rehabilitation of Resettlement Areas in Eritrea (PROFERI). A similar Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Sudan and UNHCR was signed on 6 September 1994. The first assisted repatriation movement of Eritreans from Sudan commenced on 14 November 1994 under a pilot project established to repatriate 25,000 persons. By the end of December 1994, 8,706 persons had been assisted to return.

2.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The pilot project is expected to be completed by April 1995, followed by Phase I of the operation under PROFERI, which will involve repatriation of some 135,000 persons during 1995. This planning figure comprises 100,000 returnees from Sudan who would require transportation as well as integration assistance in Eritrea, and 35,000 persons who are expected to return spontaneously and require integration assistance only. PROFERI is coordinated by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), and UNHCR's participation includes transportation, reception and initial integration assistance in the form of quick impact projects (QIPs). Although Eritrea and the Sudan broke off diplomatic relations in early December 1994, the repatriation operation has continued on humanitarian grounds.

The following provisional rates of return are expected:

1994/5: 25,000 (pilot project)

1995: 135,000

1996: 150,000

1997: 120,000

Modest donor response, in particular towards the rehabilitation component, has inhibited the Government of Eritrea from fully implementing the comprehensive plan of operation, thus making it difficult to meet expectations as to the quality and adequacy of preparations in the settlement sites, particularly concerning infrastructure. Pending contributions to the appeal, $ 3 million have been allocated from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation.

3. Ethiopia

3.1 Progress achieved in 1994: A total of 35,644 Ethiopian refugees were repatriated during 1994 with UNHCR assistance from Kenya (13,996), Sudan (13,820), Djibouti (7,731), Yemen (37) and other countries (60). Most of the returnees have settled in the Tigray, Amhara, Oromo, Gambela and Ogaden regions of Ethiopia. Funds will continue to be required for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of essential service infrastructure, mainly in the areas of water, health, education, agriculture and livestock, in order to enhance the absorptive capacity in the returnee areas and ensure that the return is successful. From 1992 to the end of 1994, about 590,000 Ethiopian returnees from Somalia and over 140,000 non-refugees benefited from the "cross-mandate" approach, which was adopted in eastern and southern Ethiopia in view of the fact that returnees, displaced persons and victims of drought and famine lived side by side in the same localities. Security continues to be the major obstacle to effective programme implementation. Nevertheless, significant progress has been achieved in 1994 and it is hoped that this will continue in 1995, given the strong commitment declared by the Government of Ethiopia.

3.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: It is foreseen that over 85,000 Ethiopian refugees from Sudan (50,000), Djibouti (25,000), Kenya (10,000), Yemen (450) and other countries (about 200) will repatriate during 1995. These returnees are expected to settle in the areas of Tigray, Gondar, Wollo, Dire Dawa, Harar, Babile, Jijiga, Negelle, Moyale and Addis Ababa. The returnees will receive reintegration packages consisting of agricultural tools for farming families or an amount of Ethiopian Birr 1,500 per head of household. In addition to these packages, rehabilitation and reconstruction work needs to be undertaken in the reintegration areas. As in the cross-mandate approach, emphasis will be on improving infrastructure that will benefit the entire community.

Many governmental and inter-governmental organizations are also developing initiatives and strategies which would provide long-term solutions to the endemic problems of the Horn of Africa which, inter alia, cause large population displacements. The best known of these initiatives include the USAID/President Clinton Initiative on the Horn of Africa and a UNDP initiative which emphasizes a cross-mandate/cross-border approach. It is hoped that these initiatives will have a positive effect on the planned repatriation programme. However, the lack of settlement/agricultural land remains a major obstacle to the voluntary return of Ethiopian refugees from Sudan. It is hoped that the Government of Ethiopia will address this problem. The provision of cash grants to returnees upon arrival is being examined.

4. Liberia

4.1 Progress achieved in 1994: The security situation has deteriorated further since September 1994, after the failure of the Akossombo Agreement. This resulted in over 180,000 Liberians fleeing into neighbouring Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire. The implementation of the Accra Agreement, signed on 21 December 1994, has been held up by disagreement among the factions on the composition of the National Transitional Council. Under these circumstances, there was no large-scale organized repatriation during 1994. However, despite general insecurity, some spontaneous repatriation took place, and 6,700 returnees were registered by UNHCR and assisted upon their arrival during 1994. UNHCR assistance, however, is limited to returnees in the Greater Monrovia region.

4.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The Accra Agreement called for a cease-fire, elections (to be held on 14 November 1995) and the composition of a five-member ruling council to govern Liberia until an elected Government can take over in January 1996. The peace agreement is the framework within which it is hoped to end the Liberian conflict and organize voluntary repatriation during the year. In order to achieve these objectives, all armed factions, including civilian leaders, agreed to establish safe havens and buffer zones throughout the country, disarm and demobilize the combatants, and reorganize the armed forces by the end of August 1995. Should this agreement be implemented according to plan, an organized repatriation can be launched towards mid-1995 for some 50,000 persons. The main constraints are the precarious security situation in the places of origin, the lack of will on the part of factions to resolve the conflict and the lack of donor support for the demobilization operation. An allocation of $ 1.1 million has been made from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation.

5. Malian Tuaregs

5.1 Progress achieved in 1994: During the second half of 1994 new factions emerged, and there were reports of fighting between Tuareg groups on the one hand, and with local self-defence groups on the other. After several attacks in northern Mali, thousands of new refugees fled to neighbouring countries and all repatriation operations, including a pilot repatriation operation, had to be postponed. Despite the security situation, approximately 1,000 persons repatriated spontaneously to Mali during 1994, mainly from Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

5.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: Since January 1995, there have been concerted efforts by the Government to promote national reconciliation, and some positive developments in the peace talks have been noted. It is expected that, if the situation continues to improve, some 20,000 of the estimated 170,000 Malian Tuareg refugees would choose to repatriate voluntarily during 1995. However, the security situation and lack of infrastructure in northern Mali may affect this potential repatriation. An allocation of $ 0.1 million has been made from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation.

6. Mozambique

6.1 Progress achieved in 1994: By the end of 1994, some 1.6 million persons had returned to Mozambique since the signing of the Peace Agreement in October 1992. During 1994, and in the context of UNHCR's efforts to accelerate the repatriation process, some 271,000 persons were transported back from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and the United Republic of Tanzania. The implementation of 486 QIPs, mostly in the health, education, water and transport sectors reinforced reintegration activities. A total of 177,000 tool kits and 186,700 seed kits were distributed during 1994.

6.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: An estimated 100,000 refugees are expected to return from Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa during 1995, mostly through organized transportation assistance. During 1995, a targeted and expanded QIP programme, comprising some 1,000 projects in 28 priority districts, will be implemented through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), technical departments and relevant ministries. UNHCR's reintegration strategy, endorsed by the Government and major donors, aims to establish links to longer-term development programmes in Mozambique. Discussions have begun on joint programmes with various multilateral and bilateral organizations. These linkages will contribute to the sustainability of the activities already initiated and allow UNHCR to scale down its programmes and discontinue its field presence by June 1996.

7. Sierra Leone

7.1 Progress achieved in 1994: By mid-1994, there were already an estimated 40,000 spontaneous returnees from Guinea and Liberia. The majority live in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). While UNHCR is providing assistance to both returnees and IDPs, the security problems, particularly in the north-eastern region of Sierra Leone, forced all relief activities to be suspended beyond the town of Bo. During 1994, only 113 Sierra Leoneans were assisted to repatriate from Liberia by ship. These movements were suspended after March 1994 because of the security conditions. The number of new spontaneous returnees cannot be verified owing to inaccessibility and further displacement of the returnees.

7.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The security situation has worsened since December 1994, leaving only the north-west free from rebel attacks. The recent attack on Kambia near the Guinean border forced some 35,000 Sierra Leoneans to cross into Guinea. Currently, there are 196,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea and 120,000 in Liberia. Political uncertainty and insecurity in Sierra Leone militate against an early return. Even small-scale organized repatriation from Liberia appears to be difficult in the first half of 1995. Should the security situation improve, the repatriation of large groups of refugees would be feasible during 1995, particularly for the newly arrived refugees in Guinea.

8. Somalia (including the Kenya/Somalia Cross-Border Operation)

8.1 Progress achieved in 1994: UNHCR initiated a cross-border operation in September 1992 with the dual objectives of bringing about stability in the places of origin in southern Somalia and facilitating the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees who have been granted asylum in Kenya since 1991.

The National Reconciliation Agreement signed by the Somali factions on 27 March 1993 encouraged Somali refugees in Kenya to hope to return to their home areas. However, this ambition was belied by the security situation in Somalia, which remained uncertain throughout 1993 and 1994. Nevertheless, during 1994, 59,418 Somalis returned. Amongst these, 8,017 returned with full returnee assistance, while 41,401 left with three-months' food rations (after returning their food ration cards) but without transport assistance. The security situation in many parts of Somalia continued to create obstacles for repatriation by land from the Dadaab camps in Kenya to the Juba Valley in Somalia. QIPs are being used to rehabilitate the socio-economic and physical infrastructure in the areas of return. These projects cover a wide spectrum of activities under the transport, infrastructure, water, sanitation, health, income generating, agriculture and community services sectors. During 1992 and 1993, some 386 QIPs were successfully implemented. However, in 1994 only 52 QIPs were implemented owing to constraints imposed by the deteriorating security situation.

8.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: During 1995, some 75,000 Somalis in Kenya are expected to seek UNHCR assistance to return to their home areas; 50,000 with transportation assistance and 25,000 without transportation assistance. Since 26 December 1994, UNHCR has resumed the repatriation movements, and, as of 16 February 1995, some 9,326 persons had returned by sea (4,725), by air (3,303) and by land (1,298) from the Utange camp to various destinations in Somalia. These movements are expected to result in the closure of the Utange camp by the end of March 1995. If the present trend in repatriation continues after the total withdrawal of the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II), UNHCR will be able to achieve the expected goal of assisting 75,000 returnees in 1995. This would bring the total number of persons repatriated to Somalia to about 189,000 since 1992. Depending on the security situation and the ability to monitor implementation in the field, rehabilitation assistance in the form of QIPs will continue in the areas of return.

9. North-West Somalia

9.1 Progress achieved in 1994: A number of preparatory activities were undertaken during 1994 to facilitate the organized voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees to North-West Somalia, particularly from Ethiopia and Djibouti. These activities included negotiations with all concerned parties, information campaigns amongst refugees and populations in the areas of return, registration of prospective repatriants, identification of their respective areas of origin/return, and implementation of community-based rehabilitation projects. All preparations were completed, and UNHCR was poised to begin implementing a pilot project for the first organized repatriation movements of 10,000 refugees from eastern Ethiopia, when heavy fighting broke out between government forces and opposition militias in Hargeisa on 15 November 1994. This led not only to a virtual halt to the planned movements, but also to a fresh outflow of more than 60,000 refugees from North-West Somalia into eastern Ethiopia. To contain this new movement, UNHCR, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian organizations, assisted displaced persons in North-West Somalia by providing them with non-food items. Meanwhile, refugees who were ready to repatriate continued to receive assistance in their country of asylum.

9.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: Following the end of fighting in and around Hargeisa in January 1995 and the subsequent slow return to normal life in the region, efforts were directed at a gradual resumption of previously planned operations, including the pilot project's implementation and support of the Peace and Reconciliation conference. Should the current return to peace continue and the two above objectives be achieved without hindrance by April 1995, there is hope that repatriation movements on a larger scale can be organized thereafter from both Ethiopia (185,000 persons) and Djibouti (20,000 persons). However, the volatile security situation in the region would recommend maximum flexibility and pragmatism in implementing the programme. Since fighting broke out in Hargeisa in November 1994, UNHCR international staff remain relocated in Boroma, provisionally until the end of March 1995 when the situation will again be reviewed. Budgetary estimates include requirements for the Kenya Cross-Border Operation, the repatriation of Somali refugees from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen, as well as reintegration assistance in North-West Somalia.

10. Togo

10.1 Progress achieved in 1994: At the end of 1994, re-registration exercises indicated that the numbers of Togolese refugees in Ghana and Benin had decreased by around 120,000 persons. A large number of these refugees may have repatriated spontaneously to Togo. Late in 1994, there were positive developments like the reopening of the Togolese/Ghanaian border and the declaration of a general amnesty by the Togolese authorities.

10.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The general amnesty declared by the Togolese Government in December 1994 is a key element which could eventually lead to a large-scale voluntary repatriation of some 50,000 persons. Although refugees are cautious at this stage, some may choose to repatriate during 1995 if there are sufficient guarantees for their security and improved prospects for reintegration. In view of the above, an international staff member has been deployed to Lomé on mission status to monitor the situation and follow up on new developments. The Togolese authorities are optimistic that significant repatriation of Togolese refugees could take place this year. They underline the importance of working closely with UNHCR in developing a strategy for repatriation. The lack of guarantees for the security and reintegration of returnees is, however, still the main constraint to the voluntary repatriation of Togolese refugees.

B. Americas and the Caribbean

11. Guatemala

11.1 Progress achieved in 1994: Guatemalan refugees continued to repatriate collectively from Mexico during 1994, despite ongoing security problems, the absence of a peace agreement and the slow implementation of the 1992 agreement related to the provision of land to returnees. The human rights accord signed on 29 March 1994 between the Government of Guatemala and the armed opposition Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG) did not improve the security situation as had been expected. Consequently, it was not possible to achieve the target of repatriating 10,000 refugees, and only 6,018 persons returned with UNHCR assistance during 1994.

11.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The major obstacles facing the repatriation movements are the scarcity of arable land and the legal complexities of land ownership in the areas of return. According to the 1992 agreement between the Government of Guatemala and representatives of the Guatemalan refugee community in Mexico, the returnees have the right of access to credit schemes to purchase land, or to recover private land that was abandoned and expropriated during their absence. Since the Guatemalan Government has not yet been able to extend these opportunities to all refugees willing to return, the repatriation process is comparatively slow. However, it is expected that the peace agreement which is being negotiated between the Government and URNG will create opportunities to solve the land issues. This, in addition to an expected improvement in the security situation, should expedite the repatriation of an estimated 10,000 refugees during 1995.

12. Haiti

12.1 Progress achieved in 1994: The return of President Aristide on 15 October 1994 reduced political stability and generalized violence in Haiti and paved the way for voluntary repatriation. Haitian refugees, who since late 1991 had enjoyed asylum in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries, were now able to return home. A total of 1,127 Haitian returnees were thus assisted by UNHCR during 1994.

12.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: Despite the still fragile political situation, voluntary repatriation of small groups under UNHCR auspices continues without interruption. By the end of 1995, some 1,000 refugees are expected to have repatriated from the Dominican Republic and other countries in the region. In addition, a total of 1,400 Haitians are expected to return without UNHCR assistance during the year. An allocation of $ 0.1 million has been made from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation towards the total cost of this programme.

13. Other countries in Latin America

13.1 Progress achieved in 1994: After the promulgation of the cessation clause in March 1994, a higher number of Chileans than expected repatriated. A total of 1,470 Chilean returnees were assisted by UNHCR. In addition, an estimated 14,000 Chileans returned without UNHCR assistance. As regards repatriation to El Salvador, only 301 Salvadorians repatriated during 1994, slightly less than foreseen. In other Latin American countries, 78 refugees were assisted to repatriate during the year.

13.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The continuation of the repatriation to Chile, which will be completed for the large majority of Chilean refugees by the end of the year, appears free of constraints. A total of 800 Chileans are expected to repatriate during 1995. Funding requirements will be met under General Programmes. In addition, it is projected that 8,000 Chileans will return without UNHCR assistance. In El Salvador, while the security situation is disturbing and there is continued social unrest, it is estimated that there will be an increase in the number of Salvadorians repatriating from Belize. This would result in the total return of an estimated 500 Salvadorians from various countries during 1995. Small numbers of Latin American refugees are expected to return to other countries in Latin America throughout the year.

C. Asia and Oceania

14. Cambodia

14.1 Progress achieved in 1994: The large-scale voluntary repatriation of Cambodians was completed by May 1993 and, during 1994, only 236 Cambodians returned home voluntarily, of whom 132 were assisted by UNHCR (72 from Indonesia, 46 from Thailand and 14 from other countries). In early 1994, the Government of Cambodia introduced a case-by-case and time-consuming screening process for the individual repatriation of Cambodian refugees from countries in the region. At the end of 1994, some 180 candidates for voluntary repatriation were still awaiting the corresponding authorization from the Cambodian authorities to return home. Upon arrival in Cambodia, returnees have been provided with food assistance, temporary identification cards and, where necessary, in-country transportation.

14.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: It is estimated that a maximum of 1,100 Cambodians will repatriate during 1995 from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam, some European countries and elsewhere. UNHCR, together with the Cambodian Red Cross, will facilitate their return and provide a standard package of assistance. An allocation of $ 0.3 million has been made from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation.

15. Lao People's Democratic Republic

15.1 Progress achieved in 1994: The year 1994 heralded a record in Lao repatriation, with a total of 5,593 persons having returned during 1994 as compared to 4,203 in 1993. Of the total repatriated during 1994, 5,172 returned from camps in Thailand, 408 from China and 13 from other countries. The number of Lao who have returned voluntarily under UNHCR auspices since the inception of this programme in 1980 stood at 24,546 at the end of 1994, of whom 21,426 were repatriated from Thailand and 3,120 returned from China and other countries. In July 1994, the Lao and Thai Governments and UNHCR held the Seventh Tripartite Meeting in Thailand, where all three parties reaffirmed their commitment to complete repatriation from Thailand by the end of 1995. The European Union started a project in Bokeo province in 1994 for the benefit of returnees and surrounding populations. Three NGOs (Concern of Ireland, Consortium of the United States and Zoa Refugee Care of the Netherlands) are also assisting returnees in rural settlements.

15.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: During its fifth meeting on 14 February 1994, the Steering Committee of the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees set the end of 1995 as a target date for completing the Comprehensive Plan of Action. The applicability of this target date to the Lao caseload in Thailand was reconfirmed during the Seventh Tripartite Meeting between the Governments of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Thailand and UNHCR in July 1994.

In 1995, it is thus estimated that some 5,000 Lao will repatriate voluntarily from Thailand, and approximately 200 from China and other countries, with UNHCR assistance. Prospects for return from Thailand during 1995 are promising due to the Lao Government's cooperation in identifying a settlement site in Khamouane province to which 513 refugees already returned voluntarily on 28 February 1995. The site has a capacity of 3,000, which could be expanded.

16. Myanmar

16.1 Progress achieved in 1994: UNHCR opened a Liaison Office in Yangon in February 1994 and, by the end of the year, established a field presence of 13 international staff in Rakhine State. Larger scale voluntary repatriation movements under UNHCR auspices started at the end of April 1994. Returnees were provided with a repatriation kit in addition to an individual cash grant, a family housing grant and a two-month food ration. Between April 1994 and 15 February 1995, 106,000 Muslim residents had repatriated voluntarily from the camps in Bangladesh to Rakhine State, Myanmar, a higher than expected rate of return.

To improve the population's livelihood in the returnee receiving areas of Rakhine State, some small-scale reintegration projects were implemented during 1994. The start-up of this reintegration programme required more time than anticipated, mainly due to a lack of an implementing capacity and logistical problems related to the lack of infrastructure in this remote part of the country. The authorities' agreement to the presence of a limited number of NGOs has helped to overcome the first problem. Immediate priority areas continue to be in the sectors of health, water, sanitation and rural infrastructure. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also made considerable progress in a food-for-work scheme, which provides numerous employment opportunities in mainly small-scale access road repair and pond-digging projects.

16.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: With less than 90,000 persons remaining in the camps in Bangladesh as of mid-February 1995, it is planned to complete the movement phase during 1995. The challenge will be to accelerate the implementation of small-scale reintegration projects. It is envisaged to expand the programme with projects in the sectors of community development (with a particular focus on the most vulnerable), education (with emphasis on primary schooling), health education and small-scale agricultural projects.

17. Sri Lanka

17.1 Progress achieved in 1994: A total of 8,147 persons returned from Tamil Nadu, India, to Sri Lanka in several movements organized in February 1994 (3,575 persons) and September 1994 (4,572 persons). The Government of India bore transportation costs. UNHCR officials continued to have access to all persons opting for repatriation to verify the voluntary nature of their return. Less than 2 per cent of the persons interviewed declared their unwillingness to repatriate and instead expressed the wish to be returned to a camp of their choice in Tamil Nadu; those that did so were assisted by the Indian authorities and UNHCR.

Out of an initial estimated camp population of 150,000, more than 86,000 persons have returned to Sri Lanka, over 21,000 since July 1992 when UNHCR started to monitor the repatriation process in Tamil Nadu. The repatriation operation was suspended in September 1994 with the start of the monsoon season. Less than 5,000 returnees are still accommodated in reception centres in Sri Lanka. Approximately 64,000 refugees are still living in 113 camps in Tamil Nadu. Indian Government figures indicate that some 35,000 to 40,000 persons are living outside camps.

UNHCR is pursuing its reintegration activities in the five northern districts of Sri Lanka through the implementation of community based micro-projects. More than 100 developmental projects focusing on education, road rehabilitation, water, sanitation and income generating activities have been implemented since mid-1993, while another 100 projects are presently under implementation.

17.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: Peace negotiations entered into by the newly elected Sri Lankan Government with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have resulted in a cessation of hostilities and could generate a solution to this protracted conflict. These developments could lead to an increased number of voluntary returns in 1995, estimated at some 20,000 persons, and would allow UNHCR to strengthen the reintegration activities in northern Sri Lanka. Repatriation movements allowing the voluntary return of approximately 10,500 persons are being organized and should take place by end-March 1995.

UNHCR has been involved in a so-called "passive monitoring" of the return of the Sri Lankan nationals not in need of international protection, on the basis of a bilateral agreement between the Governments of Switzerland and Sri Lanka. From June 1994 to January 1995, a total of 128 persons were returned to Sri Lanka without encountering any major problem.

18. Viet Nam

18.1 Progress achieved in 1994: The scale of voluntary repatriation from camps in East and South-East Asia was disappointing during 1994, with only 12,551 persons returning to Viet Nam during that year compared with 19,233 persons in 1993. This represented less than half the 30,000 persons originally expected to return in 1994.

This decrease was most apparent in Hong Kong, but a decline was also seen in Thailand and, to a lesser extent, in Malaysia. The situation is different in Indonesia where, since October 1994, considerably more applicants have come forward than in 1993.

The total number of returnees since 1989 until the end of 1994 stood at 68,065. In addition, 1,174 persons have returned from Hong Kong under bilateral arrangements between Hong Kong and the Vietnamese Government. The total number of returnees in Viet Nam exceeded 70,000 in January 1995.

The returnees continue to receive reintegration assistance from UNHCR, the European Community International Programme (ECIP), the Nordic Aid to Repatriated Vietnamese (NARV) and other NGOs.

18.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: As mentioned above, during its fifth meeting on 14 February 1994, the Steering Committee of the International Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees set the end of 1995 as the target date for the completion of the CPA.

At the beginning of 1995, a total of 42,733 Vietnamese non-refugees were still in camps in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

Hong Kong and Indonesia had earlier entered into Orderly Repatriation Programme (ORP) arrangements with Viet Nam, in the latter case with UNHCR involvement. Malaysia and the Philippines have now reached similar agreements with Viet Nam, also with UNHCR involvement, which were signed on 25 January and 5 February 1995, respectively.

Among those factors that have led many non-refugee camp residents not to apply for repatriation are a perceived ambiguity in government policies, the influence of groups hostile to repatriation, and the "wait to the end" attitude adopted by many Vietnamese long-stayers in the camps.

D. Europe

19. Georgia

19.1 Progress achieved in 1994: Negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia under United Nations auspices, facilitated by the Russian Federation, and observed by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)), resulted in the signing, on 4 April 1994 in Moscow by Georgia, Abkhazia, the Russian Federation and UNHCR, of a Quadripartite Agreement on the Voluntary Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons.

On 14 May 1994, an "Agreement on cease-fire and separation of troops", which set out the principles and procedures for the deployment of peace-keeping force, was signed in Moscow by the two parties to the conflict. Peace-keeping troops were effectively deployed as from 15 June 1994.

The Quadripartite Agreement contained the framework for the preparation of a workplan for voluntary return, inter alia through the establishment of a Quadripartite Commission on Refugees and Displaced Persons. This Commission, chaired by UNHCR, and which also fulfills a Secretariat function, is to elaborate and adopt principles, proposals and plans for the implementation of the Agreement. The Agreement mentions a link between the voluntary return programme and the deployment of peace-keeping forces.

During the same period, relief items were pre-positioned and procured, a database with returnee names was established, and the administrative and staffing support was put in place. The first repatriation movement under UNHCR auspices took place on 6 October 1994 and this was followed by similar movements, all of very small numbers. Although it had been hoped that the initial movement would gradually grow into a substantial programme, the serious security situation in Gali District and the unwillingness of the Abkhaz side to allow more than an insubstantial number of persons to return each month militated against this. In early December 1994, after 311 persons had returned to Gali city, the movements came to a halt because there were no more cases cleared for return. It became apparent that the differences between the parties as to the desirability of voluntary return, its size, speed and destination needed to be resolved if the process was to be successful.

19.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: Although political negotiations held under United Nations proved inconclusive, the parties did agree to participate in a Quadripartite Committee meeting in Moscow on 16 February 1995. During this meeting, whose objective was to elaborate a time frame for the return of displaced persons to Abkhazia, UNHCR submitted a proposal for the return of some 8,000 IDPs a month whose place of residence/origin was Gali District. However, no agreement was reached during this meeting because it seemed that the Abkhaz delegation had no mandate to discuss a substantial return timetable. It maintained that a schedule involving more that 500 persons a month could not be considered without reaching parallel and political agreements as to the conditions under which return would take place.

Despite this setback, given the critical stage the process has reached and since all channels of communication should be kept open, UNHCR does not intend to abandon the quadripartite process. Meanwhile, UNHCR will continue to monitor and protect persons who have already returned, and to distribute WFP supplied food as well as relief items made available by other agencies such as UNICEF and OXFAM. Through staff based in Abkhazia, UNHCR will keep in close contact with the local population and authorities, the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and peace-keeping forces.

In view of uncertain political developments that may hamper the repatriation process, UNHCR based its 1995 budget on the assumption that 18,000 persons would return to the Gali region during the year. Should the parties involved reach a comprehensive agreement allowing for higher returnee figures, the programme would be revised accordingly. If repatriation resumes, UNHCR's objective will be to ensure a smooth reintegration in the areas of return through protection and rehabilitation assistance. Pending repatriation, UNHCR will continue to provide care and maintenance assistance to approximately 280,000 internally displaced persons. In light of the low levels of contributions to this programme, UNHCR has requested $ 1.7 million from the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF).

E. South West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East

20. Afghanistan

20.1 Progress achieved in 1994: Factional fighting that erupted in Kabul on 1 January 1994 continued throughout the year, causing renewed displacement and imposing a heavy burden on rural communities recovering from 15 years of war. In all, it is estimated that as many as 1 million people have been displaced within Afghanistan (mostly from Kabul) since the fall of the Najibullah Government in April 1992. Nearly 300,000 persons have been temporarily settled in camps in Jalalabad (260,000), Mazar (27,000), Herat (1,200) and Kandahar (600). An additional 250,000 persons are living in private homes and public buildings in the Jalalabad area. Entry into Pakistan for Afghans during 1994 was officially restricted to those with valid travel documents, or those allowed in on exceptional humanitarian grounds. Over 76,000 Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan since January 1994.

Repatriation of Afghan refugees during 1994 confirmed earlier projections that return and rehabilitation would continue in areas unaffected by the ongoing conflict. Although the level of return was below the initial planning figure of 400,000 persons, a total of 329,327 persons returned to Afghanistan.

Monitors in Pakistan observed 102,658 individuals crossing into Afghanistan, including 32,043 who were assisted by UNHCR. UNHCR assisted 121,402 persons from the Islamic Republic of Iran at the border exit points and 105,267 persons returned spontaneously. Since the commencement of a programme for repatriation to Afghanistan, a total of over 2.8 million refugees have returned from Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. At the end of 1994, approximately 1.6 million Afghan refugees remained in the Islamic Republic of Iran and 1.2 million in Pakistan.

The premise of United Nations assistance activities in Afghanistan, including those of UNHCR, has been that assistance will be provided to communities on the basis of need, with no distinction made between returnees, internally displaced and those who remained behind. Assistance projects during 1994 continued to be structured around QIPs, which are designed for speedy implementation through a one-time investment to address urgent needs of the community. UNHCR modified its strategy in order to maximize assistance to returnees and strengthened partnerships with NGOs and United Nations agencies in order to pool their vast experience and expertise. Reintegration activities have focused on survival and immediate needs of those living in provinces receiving refugees and internally displaced persons. Projects were undertaken which focused on increasing the rural drinking water supply in eastern Afghanistan and improving the irrigation supply in south-eastern Afghanistan. Income-generating projects targeting women, widows and the disabled were launched. In cooperation with the WFP, UNHCR provided 10,000 families in the western provinces with food and tools as a contribution towards the reconstruction of their homes.

To ensure the voluntary character of return, UNHCR continued to maintain a staff presence at border crossings and along routes of return. The Governments of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan, in cooperation with UNHCR, have established two tripartite commissions on voluntary repatriation to facilitate the voluntary return of Afghans from countries of refuge and their successful reintegration in Afghanistan. The Tripartite Commissions were convened regularly throughout 1994.

20.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: Following the Conclusion of the Executive Committee in October 1994 which called upon the High Commissioner to intensify the activities of her Office in the safe areas of Afghanistan (A/AC.96/839, para.32(d)), new initiatives are being undertaken, and the current programme represents a new dimension which will be extended for a three-year period. It is anticipated that, by the end of 1997, UNHCR's presence in Afghanistan will be progressively phased down in favour of development-oriented agencies of the United Nations. Despite the ongoing conflict in Kabul, much of the countryside to which the refugees will return has been relatively stable. Through an increased presence in certain key areas of Afghanistan, UNHCR can contribute to the establishment of stability and the return of viable living conditions, which are prerequisites for the sustainable return of refugees and their reintegration. The number of refugees planned to return in 1995 (levels established by the Tripartite Commissions for Repatriation to Afghanistan) are 500,000 from the Islamic Republic of Iran and 200,000 from Pakistan.

Operating from its main office in Islamabad from the four sub-offices in Mazar, Herat, Kandahar, and Jalalabad, UNHCR Afghanistan will expand its programme's geographic reach in 1995 and later, conditions permitting, in Kabul.

The displacement of civilians from Kabul as a result of factional fighting has assumed alarming proportions. There are now an estimated 1 million Afghans displaced in different parts of the country, with over 300,000 receiving international assistance in camps established in eastern and northern Afghanistan. This displacement directly affects prospects for successful repatriation. An essential part of the United Nations strategy for the displaced persons is geared to prevention. The resumption of missions to Kabul and the recent dispatch of humanitarian convoys to the city have been important steps in addressing the problem at its source and reducing the outflow of civilians seeking assistance. As more possibilities open up for the delivery of assistance to Kabul, it will be possible to shift the concentration of resources away from the camps.

21. Central Asian Republics

21.1 Progress achieved in 1994: The 1992 civil war in Tajikistan resulted in the displacement of approximately 500,000 persons, of whom 60,000 sought refuge in northern Afghanistan. From this initial displacement, it is reported that some 18,000 refugees in the northern Afghan provinces of Balkh and Kunduz and a further 12,500 internally displaced in the Tajik province of Gorno-Badakhshan have not yet returned to their places of habitual residence.

The Quadripartite Repatriation Commission and the Refugee Commission, both of which were chaired by UNHCR, continued to meet during 1994. The Quadripartite Commission, which consists of representatives of the Uzbek, Tajik and Afghan Governments, has facilitated the process of voluntary repatriation through Uzbekistan. The Refugee Commission, which was established as a result of the United Nations-sponsored Tajik peace talks, seeks to identify and coordinate assistance to Tajiks displaced as a consequence of the civil war.

During 1994, UNHCR assisted in the repatriation of 10,938 Tajiks from northern Afghanistan, bringing the cumulative total of returnees at the end of 1994 to 42,562. Of those who returned in 1994, 6,144 came from Sakhi camp in the province of Balkh, and 4,794 from Kunduz. The repatriation operation from northern Afghanistan is organized through two entry points. These are Sakhi (Mazar-i-Sharif) via Uzbekistan to Shaartuz and Kabodian by train, and from Sher Khan Bandar in Kunduz to Nijni Piandj in Tajikistan via river barge.

The low level of repatriation of Tajiks from northern Afghanistan during 1994 could be attributed to the following factors:

(a) the Tajik economy, which had been devastated during the civil war, continued to deteriorate, thereby reducing the economic incentive to return;

(b) lack of access by UNHCR to the majority of the refugee population in Kunduz limited the flow of information and the assistance which could be provided;

(c) the presence amongst the refugees of opposition and special interest groups who advised against and, in some instances, prevented repatriation;

(d) the perception by some groups that the general security situation in Tajikistan was still not sufficiently stable to justify a return;

(e) a funding shortfall limited efforts to implement sectors of the reintegration strategy such as the provision of roofing material and the implementation of income generation projects for the benefit of returnees; and

(f) desire of the refugees to integrate locally.

In addition to the Tajik refugees in Afghanistan, UNHCR estimated that approximately 700 Afghans sought asylum in Tajikistan. In other Central Asian Republics, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic reported that the number of Tajik refugees of Kyrgyz origin who have sought asylum was over 6,000. In Kazakhstan, the number of Tajik refugees is estimated at 5,000. Although the Uzbek Government has stated that there are no refugees in Uzbekistan, UNHCR has estimated that approximately 50,000 Tajik and 8,000 Afghans have sought refuge in that country. No reliable estimates were available on the number of persons who have sought asylum in Turkmenistan.

21.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: UNHCR's objective is to continue to assist the reintegration of the Tajik returnees and internally displaced persons who choose to return to their areas of origin. It is expected that approximately 10,000 Tajik refugees in Afghanistan will choose to repatriate during the spring and summer of 1995. An allocation of $ 423,000 has been made from the 1995 General Allocation for Voluntary Repatriation for the repatriation of Tajiks from northern Afghanistan. Those displaced persons who do not return to their former habitual residences by the end of this summer are expected to integrate locally in northern Afghanistan.

The political volatility and level of security in Afghanistan and the economic climate in Tajikistan will continue to influence the extent of repatriation during 1995.

As of February 1995, an estimated 95 per cent of the internally displaced population had returned to their places of habitual residence. With only 12,500 internally displaced and up to 18,000 refugees remaining to return, UNHCR plans to phase down its operations in Tajikistan by the second half of 1995. Discussions are continuing with the OSCE and other United Nations agencies to assume the human rights monitoring/protection activities currently undertaken by UNHCR. To support UNHCR's presence in the Central Asian Republics and to assist the respective Governments with legal reform and institution building, UNHCR liaison offices will be established in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan during 1995.

The refugee caseloads in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are unlikely to avail themselves of the opportunity to return to their areas of habitual residence in Tajikistan and have already started to integrate into their countries of asylum.

The Afghan populations in Central Asia are of growing concern to UNHCR since they cannot return to Afghanistan given current political instability and/or their past affiliations. Several thousand may thus be in need of further UNHCR protection and assistance during 1995.

In addition to UNHCR's activities concerning returnees, a major portion of the Office's total efforts is directed towards the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons. UNHCR views this role as a priority in a politically fragile environment, derived from the need to prevent refugee flows, rather than simply react to them. To achieve this, UNHCR continued in 1994 to promote, with the Tajik central and regional authorities, the concept of early return of internally displaced and refugees as a means to stabilize the situation and prevent further conflicts. This strategy involved the deployment of fully equipped mobile field teams comprising Russian and Farsi speaking staff in the areas of return. Complementing the Chief of Mission's Office in Dushanbe, five field offices facilitated the monitoring of human rights and the supervision of material assistance to returnees. UNHCR also facilitated a flow of information between returnees and refugees.

Unfortunately, despite the achievements in Central Asia, UNHCR was faced with a lack of timely funding, which hindered the finalization of the reconstruction/ reintegration programme by delaying the provision of shelter materials and the implementation of income generating QIPs in the areas of return.

22. Iraq

22.1 Progress achieved in 1994: UNHCR assumptions with regard to the 10,000 returnees expected in Iraq, the majority from the Islamic Republic of Iran, proved to be largely realistic, with the return of 8,860 persons, mainly to Northern Iraq, during 1994. They were assisted with transportation from the border to their places of origin. To help them towards their reintegration, the returnees were provided with shelter materials as well as agricultural packages, or livestock or carpentry/plumbing packages as appropriate. WFP food provision was also made available to returnees for two months from their respective dates of arrival.

22.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: According to the Iranian authorities, some 50,000 Iraqi refugees, mainly Kurds, have expressed their interest in repatriating in 1995 under UNHCR auspices and arrangements. In view of actual achievements in 1994, at this stage, the special programme for returnees in 1995 aims to assist only up to 10,000 Iraqi Kurds with transportation from the Iranian border to their places of origin. Planned activities in 1995 also include providing shelter materials and a reintegration assistance package to returnees, as was done in 1994. The same assistance package will be made available for a number of families who return spontaneously.

More recent developments in Northern Iraq could jeopardize UNHCR's planning assumptions. Economic conditions are deteriorating and the ongoing fighting between the two principal Kurdish factions could also affect returnees from Syria and Turkey. The prevailing security conditions in Northern Iraq are such that they could limit the UNHCR's mobility and that of its implementing partner, thus adversely affecting the development of the project, in terms of implementation and monitoring.

Actual large-scale return movements are not expected to commence before April 1995 and would in all probability come to an end by October, before the onset winter. Later movements cannot, however, be excluded considering previous years' experience.

23. Western Sahara

23.1 Progress achieved in 1994: On 28 August 1994, the Identification Commission of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) launched the identification and registration operation of potential voters for the referendum in Western Sahara.

At the request of the Secretary-General, a technical team (including one UNHCR Officer) visited the mission area of MINURSO from 10 to 14 November 1994. UNHCR's objective in this mission was to review preparations for the repatriation of Western Saharan refugees and to examine the possible areas of cooperation with MINURSO for this operation. It was agreed during this mission that UNHCR should field a technical team to the area of operations with a view to updating the original 1991 UNHCR Operations Plan for repatriation, and that such a mission should take place only after the Secretary-General visited in November 1994 the region and following his report to the Security Council and its consequent decision.

23.2 Planning assumptions and constraints in 1995: The UNHCR technical team mission took place from 1 to 15 February 1995. The team visited various sites and potential repatriation locations, assessed their technical feasibility and collected information necessary for the updating of the repatriation plan. The mission also visited the refugee camps in the Tindouf area (Algeria).

In his report to the Security Council of 14 December 1994 (S/1994/1420), the Secretary-General indicated that it was his hope that, by 31 March 1995, progress achieved in the identification and registration process would reach a level that would enable him to recommend 1 June 1995 as the date for the start of the transitional period, and that, following a sequence of actions and events (including repatriation), the referendum could take place in October 1995.

Pending further confirmation of progress achieved, it is assumed that the repatriation operation will therefore take place in 1995. An updated budget is currently being prepared for the repatriation from Algeria, Mauritania and elsewhere of an estimated 105,000 persons, based on the assessment of the UNHCR technical mission. Meanwhile, it is proposed to retain for 1995 the budgetary estimate as submitted in 1991 and mentioned in subsequent SCAF documents, of which $ 5.8 million were spent in 1991 on preparatory activities.

Possible delays in the identification and registration process and/or in other components of the implementation of the United Nations plan cannot be ruled out.