The voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Hazara division has been halted during Ramazan, official sources said on Wednesday.
Under a tripartite agreement signed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the deadline for voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan was extended until December 31, 2012.
Sources said that following the agreement the refugees living in different parts of the country were given $150 per head for voluntary repatriation in March. As a result, the refugees started leaving Pakistan via Torkham border.
District Administrator Afghan refugees Syed Javed Shah said as many as 153 families, or 888 people, were repatriated from three camps in Panian and Badhana in Haripur district between March and July.
Similarly, 94 families comprising 595 people were repatriated from Ichrian, Khaki and Brairi camps in Mansehra during the same period, said Deputy District Officer Afghan camps Tanvir Hussain Shah.
He said the camp administration had demolished the settlements of all those refugees who had left the camp, adding that they were keeping strict vigilance on the refugees to avoid resettlements in the camps.
Regarding the decrease in return of refugees, Shah said that with the advent of Ramazan the refugees had deferred their return and it was expected that they would leave for Afghanistan after Eidul Fitr.
According to official sources, 1.7 million registered Afghan nationals are currently residing in Pakistan, while the number of families living in six refugee camps in Haripur and Mansehra is 123,359 and 22,261 respectively.
It has also been estimated that 20,327 Afghan nationals are residing in rented houses in Haripur, while 18,000 Afghanis are living outside refugee camps in Mansehra.
According to sources, there are several other families whose registration process is still underway with National Database and Registration Authority.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ