Afghan returnees on the rise
ISLAMABAD, Dec. 13 (UNHCR) - The number of refugees returning to Afghanistan is rising, while the number of civilians fleeing the country to Pakistan continues to slow.
On Tuesday and Wednesday nearly 8,000 civilians repatriated through Iran's Dogharoun crossing point and from Chaman in Pakistan. More than 30,000 refugees have now gone home from Iran since November 12, but the recent increases may be linked to a desire to celebrate the forthcoming religious festival of Eid rather than being part of a sustained repatriation movement.
On the Pakistan-Afghan border, around 300 people a day continued to arrive at the Chaman crossing, a smaller exodus than in recent weeks when up to 2,000 Afghans crossed daily. The civilians said they left because of fears of increased inter-tribal violence. UNHCR expects to reopen its office in the city of Kandahar once law and order are restored in the region.
Inside Afghanistan itself, UNHCR field staff entered the country via the recently opened Friendship Bridge linking the country to Uzbekistan and returned to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif for the first time in three months.
The staff will meet partner agencies to draw up plans to help hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and will also dispatch a mission to Faryab Province to the west of Mazar to review the needs of returnees in that area.
In the west, UNHCR boosted its presence on the ground and now has three international and 20 local field staff in the city of Herat.
Logistically, an Italian government-chartered Ilyushin 76 arrived in Kabul with 31 metric tons of supplies including blankets, cans, kitchen sets and tents. In the city itself, UNHCR distributed relief items to hundreds of people Wednesday.
Along Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan, the agency continued to provide assistance to displaced persons camped at sites on the Pyandj River including blankets, mattresses, candles and clothing. Thursday, UNHCR delivered supplies to 800 families stranded for many weeks on the river's Karavul Island.
An estimated 7,000 tons of supplies will be transferred from the Uzbek river port of Termez to Hairaton, the main Afghan logistics base north of Mazar-i-Sharif.