Voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees resumes
KABUL: The UN refugee agency’s voluntary repatriation programme for registered Afghan refugees would resume on Thursday 01 March 2018 after the winter break, a statement from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Wednesday.
Based upon the agreement between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR, the voluntary repatriation operation had been suspended for the winter period from 1 December 2017 until 28 February 2018.
UNHCR would facilitate repatriation from the voluntary repatriation centres at Azakhel, Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baleli, Quetta in Balochistan, the statement said.
Pakistan continued to host 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees who are holding Proof of Registration (PoR) cards. Around 4.3 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme since 2002.
The Proof of Registration card allow Afghan refugees the right to temporary legal stay in Pakistan.
“Every Afghan refugee has the right to return to Afghanistan as long as his or her decision is well-informed and voluntary,” said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, adding that UNHCR continues to advocate that the repatriation of Afghan refugees needs to be voluntary, safe, gradual and carried out in a dignified manner.
Ms. Menikdiwela said UNHCR acknowledged the people and government of Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for nearly four decades.
Ms. Menikdiwela called upon the international community to provide support to Afghan refugees and their host communities in Pakistan, as well as provide targeted development assistance in Afghanistan to support the sustainable reintegration of returnees to avoid further displacements.
UNHCR provides approximately USD200 to every registered individual upon their return to Afghanistan. Returnees receive the cash grant at UNHCR encashment centres in Afghanistan.