UN's Afghan repatriation programme to restart

The UN's refugee agency will next week resume repatriating refugees to Afghanistan from Pakistan, three months after one of its staff members was murdered.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that it expected to help about 400,000 refugees return from Pakistan this year – on top of the 1.9 million who have already made the trip and a further 660,000 who have returned to Afghanistan from Iran.

Returning refugees can expect to be given food, a small travel grant and some supplies by UNHCR to help them re-adjust to life in their homeland.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said that the decision to resume repatriation followed assurances from the Afghan and Pakistani governments and the introduction of extra security precautions by the agency itself.

UNHCR halted repatriations after staff member Bettina Goislard, a 29-year-old French national, was shot dead in the Afghan city of Ghazni in November. Mr Redmond said her murder “followed months of increasing violence against humanitarian workers in Afghanistan”.

Mr Redmond said UNHCR had found “significant interest” in repatriation among Afghans living in refugee camps in Pakistan. Almost half the residents of a camp at Shalman, for example, have expressed a desire to return when the camp closes next month, he said.


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