Cold weather: Refugees’ voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan suspended for three months

Published: November 18, 2019
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PHOTO: INP

PHOTO: INP

PESHAWAR: As the mercury falls in Afghanistan, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has suspended the voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

The voluntary repatriation will remain suspended between December 1 to February 29.

According to officials privy to the development, it was not being done for the first time since the process has been stopped almost every year between December and February owing to falling temperatures in different parts of Afghanistan.

Officials stated that Afghan refugees, having obtained Proof of Registration (POR) cards, have been voluntarily repatriating to their respective home towns in Afghanistan. But since the temperatures have fallen, the refugees as well as the staff facilitating the repatriation process, faced immense difficulties.

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“We want to give them as smooth repatriation as possible and above all, we want to make sure they [refugees] did not face any problems at their respective home towns,” a senior official dealing with the repatriation process told The Express Tribune.

The official stated that the process has been suspended for December, January and February. He added the process will resume by February 29, 2019.

When contacted, UNHCR Pakistan Spokesperson Qaisar Afridi confirmed the development by saying that the process was suspended due to cold weather and further said the UNCHR will not be facilitating such repatriation between December 2019-February 2020 and encashment centres will be closed.

“This process has been suspended due to cold weather,” Afridi confirmed. Officials stated that all those yet to be registered could share their grievances, concerns or any other issues with the UNHCR official anytime.

Afghan refugees regard Pakistan as home

“During the winter break [December 1, 2019 until February 29, 2020], UNHCR will not be facilitating repatriation from the Voluntary Repatriation Centres at Azakhel, Nowshera and Baleli, Quetta. Similarly, Kabul, Samar Khel (Jalalabad) and Jamal Mayna (Kandahar) Encashment Centres in Afghanistan will also not be in operation,” read a statement issued by the UNHCR.

The statement read that registered refugees who are unable to formally deregister at the Voluntary Repatriation Centres in Pakistan and who have returned to Afghanistan without a Voluntary Repatriation Form will not be assisted with cash grants and will not be given access to Encashment Centres in Afghanistan.

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