Iran/Afghanistan: 4,500+ returned last week
4,571 Afghan refugees returned from Iran to Afghanistan last week alone under a return programme organised jointly by UNHCR and Iran. This brings to 8,336 the total of Afghans who have returned since April 8. Two convoys of 25 buses and 11 trucks, one from Tehran and the other one from Mashad with a total of 915 returnees crossed into Afghanistan at Islam Qala this morning. After registration by the Taliban authorities and transfer of their belongings onto Afghan trucks this afternoon, they will proceed to Herat.
The returnees will spend the night at the Gazaghi Centre, near Herat where water, sanitation and medical facilities are available. They will also be given a cash allowance of 40 US$, 50 kg of wheat flour, plastic sheets and jerry cans.
The Mashad Protection Screening Centre, which has been operational from 19 April, continues to attract Afghans who want to apply for refugee status in Iran. Joint teams composed of UNHCR and representatives from the Iranian government are conducting the interviews. Since 19 April, 2,190 applicants have registered to be interviewed. This by far exceeds the daily processing capacity of the centre. UNHCR has sent two additional interviewers to strengthen the screening teams. As of Tuesday, the Mashad Screening Centre has 5 operational teams with a capacity to interview 45 applicants a day. So far, 189 applicants have been recognised as being in need of protection, while 64 cases have been rejected. Recognised cases will be allowed to stay in designated areas in Iran, until such time that the situation in Afghanistan is deemed conducive for their return.