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Iran: some Afghan earthquake survivors repatriated

Briefing notes

Iran: some Afghan earthquake survivors repatriated

12 January 2004

In Iran, UNHCR is repatriating 365 Afghan refugees who survived the devastating earthquake in the city of Bam. A convoy of 11 buses, five trucks and four trailers, carrying 171 men , 79 women and 165 children left Bam last night and was scheduled to cross the Afghan border at Dogharun at noon local time (09:00 GMT) today. Some people in the group were injured in the quake. Many have lost their loved ones. An 8-year-old boy, whose parents, brothers and sisters all perished in the earthquake, is travelling back to Afghanistan with one of his uncles. The group also includes four Afghans who had travelled to Bam after the earthquake to check on their families and are now going back.

Eighty percent of those returning are headed for Afghanistan's Parwan Province, north of the capital, Kabul. Some are travelling to Kabul itself, as well as to Balkh and Sar-i-Pul province. In a departure from the usual practice, the Iranian authorities agreed to waive the repatriation fee of approximately US $4 per person that is normally collected from Afghans who go back. Another repatriation convoy is scheduled to leave Bam in the coming days, as UNHCR has received 256 new repatriation requests from Afghan refugees living in Bam.

At the time of the quake, there were 3,300 registered Afghan refugees in Bam living among the local population. We do not know yet how many of them died.

In a separate movement from Iran, UNHCR yesterday (Monday) repatriated 303 Iraqi refugees. They were transported aboard seven buses and 21 trucks from Bani Najjar camp to Basra via the Shalamcheh border crossing. As with the other groups who have returned from Iran, once they arrived in the Basra transit centre, UNHCR national staff gave them blankets, plastic sheeting, stoves and food. Tents were also distributed to those who did not have immediate shelter to go to. In all, just over 1,100 Iraqi refugees have returned from Iran since UNHCR began organized returns on 19 November. Thousands more returned earlier by their own means. In all, there are believed to be around 130,000 Iraqi refugees still living in Iran.