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Afghanistan: returns pick up sharply

Briefing notes

Afghanistan: returns pick up sharply

21 December 2001

Refugees keep returning to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan as the situation in Afghanistan gradually improves and more staff from aid organisations are deployed on the ground. After a lull during the end of the Ramadan weekend, returns have picked up sharply, with thousands of people going back from Pakistan and Iran daily. On Thursday, an estimated 2.500 people returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan alone. Those returning include not only those who arrived after September 11, but also people who had fled to Pakistan earlier.

At the same time, people continue to leave Afghanistan, although the number of those returning is several times the number of those leaving.

Each day, a few hundred newly arrived Afghans are accommodated in camps near the Chaman border crossing in Pakistan's southern Balochistan province. Also, transfer of refugees from makeshift camps and urban areas to more permanent camps continues in both Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province. At the moment, UNHCR has nearly 40,000 Afghans in its care accommodated in several camps in the Quetta and Peshawar areas. This, however, represents only about one-fifth of an estimated 200,000 Afghans who have crossed into Pakistan since September 11.

In Afghanistan, UNHCR staff travelled from Kabul to the Panjshir Valley this week to check on some 12,000 Afghans who fled the Shomali Plains, north of the capital. De-mining specialists have identified at least 12 villages in the Shomali Plains that appear to be clear of mines. This week we expect to begin helping some of and estimated 200,000 Afghans who fled the Shomali Plains to return home.

In Herat in north-western Afghanistan, UNHCR, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, is preparing a large-scale re-registration of more than 230,000 internally displaced people present in the area