Saturday, June 25, 2016

After decades in Pakistan, more Afghan refugees set to return - UNHCR

Pakistan wants to repatriate some of the almost 1.6 million refugees living in the country. UNHCR has set aside funds for 60,000 returnees.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, June 23 (UNHCR) – Families sat quietly. Small children explored among the chairs. These people were going back, some after decades. And they were going back for good.

They were Afghan refugees and this was the Voluntary Repatriation Centre of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Peshawar.

Payenda Bibi Shahnaz sat in a wheelchair. Her husband Shamamud sat in another one. They have been refugees in Pakistan for 33 years but they, too, are going back to Afghanistan with their two sons, who will take care of them.

UNHCR will also help them after they return to their country.

The two met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who visited the centre today and wished them luck. UNCHR also provides returning refugees with US$200 for initial travel and housing.

There is now a concerted push from the Pakistan government to repatriate a large number of the almost one million refugees living in the Peshawar district. UNHCR has set aside funds for 60,000 returnees.

But many more choose to remain. They told Grandi at a ‘shura’, or community meeting, that educational and economic opportunities kept them in Pakistan. 

They also feared the violence in their home country. Of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, 31 have seen scenes of conflict in recent months.

Another great fear is centred on their Pakistan Proof of Registration cards. These are all due to run out on June 30. Without them, refugees are subject to arrest and even deportation. Grandi said he had strongly urged the Pakistan government to extend their validity. The decision will be made by the Pakistan cabinet. 

Grandi told them he understood their fears and their concerns that $200 is not enough to resettle in an uncertain country. - Read More

After decades in Pakistan, more Afghan refugees set to return


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