Afghanistan: More professionals going home
The number of Afghans returning home from Pakistan this year has crossed the 100,000 mark. While the number of returns is less than for the corresponding period in previous years, the composition of the returnees shows an increase in those with professional skills in areas such as engineering, medicine and education.
Among this year's returnees are 15,278 domestic workers, 1,248 carpet weavers, 357 in the education sector, 325 engineers and 115 from the medical profession. Others in the skilled category include legal practitioners, masons, plumbers and agricultural and office workers - all much-needed expertise to rebuild Afghanistan.
Compared to previous years, the pace of returns has declined so far this year. In June 2006, 24,780 Afghans returned home - a 66 percent drop over the June 2005 figure of 73,373 returns, and 48 percent lower than the 47,940 in June 2004.
The drop could be because Afghans who wanted to return have already done so, five years into UNHCR's voluntary return operation.
In all, more than 2.8 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan and more than 1.4 million from Iran since UNHCR started facilitating returns to Afghanistan in 2002. An estimated 2.6 million Afghans remain in Pakistan while more than 900,000 are believed to be still living in Iran.
Voluntary repatriation continues under tripartite agreements between Afghanistan, UNHCR, and the governments of Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran separately. An Iranian delegation is currently in Kabul for the 10th tripartite commission meeting to discuss the return of Afghans in Iran.