Peshawar – The UN refugee agency has facilitated the return of over 41,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan so far this year with its voluntary repatriation activities.Of the total returned from Pakistan this year, 23,664 Afghan refugees had been living in Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A further 8,578 refugees returned home from the Province of Balochistan, with 2,883 individuals repatriating from the Province of Sindh and 5,916 from the Province of Punjab, including Islamabad.
Nearly a third of the refugees have returned to homes in northern Afghanistan, in particular to the Provinces of Baghlan, Jowzjan, Balkh and Takhar. About 26 per cent of the returns were to the Eastern
Provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Laghman.
There were also a significant number of returns to Ghazni, Kabul, Logar and Parwan in central Afghanistan.
Returns so far in 2012 are up by 11 percent compared to the same period last year. To facilitate the returns of Afghan refugees, UNHCR operates three Voluntary Repatriation Centres in Pakistan.
They are located in, Chamkani near Peshawar, Timergara and Baleli in Quetta. There is also a repatriation scheduling center in Karachi to assist with returns from the city and surrounding areas of Sindh.
In addition to assisting Afghans to return home, UNHCR is also helping communities in Pakistan that have hosted large numbers of refugees.
Through the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative, for which the UN refugee agency acts as a Convening Agency, it is implementing projects to provide livelihoods, improve infrastructure and
rehabilitate the environment in over 22 rural districts and six urban areas across the country.
“Pakistan has generously hosted the world;s largest refugeepopulation for over thirty years,” said Neill Wright, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan.
“RAHA is designed to ensure that the local communities which have hosted refugees benefit support to ensure that the extra burden on social services and utilities does not result in a lower standard of living for the residents of those villages and towns that have so generously welcomed Afghan refugees.”
The RAHA programme is a major component of a new regional strategy on Afghan refugees agreed between the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan as well as UNHCR. The strategy, which seeks to enable
more Afghan refugees to return home and contribute to the rebuilding of their country, was given international support at a conference held in May in Geneva.
Now in its tenth year, UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme has assisted more than 3.7 million Afghan refugees to return home from Pakistan.