Around 235 Afghan refugee families have returned to their native towns in Afghanistan during the current week, senior protection officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Balochistan chapter, Tayba Sharif said on Tuesday.
The trend of voluntary repatriation had increased to 36%, as under the process, the UNHCR had repatriated over 50,000 Afghan refugees during 2012, while the number of repatriated refugees in 2011 was 32,000, the UNHCR official said.
Providing collective data on the repatriation process, she stated that the UNHCR has facilitated the voluntary return of more than 3.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan since 2002, adding the process was based purely on a voluntary basis and every person opting to return is advised to make a wise decision. “The UNHCR has set up four Voluntary Return Centres (VRCs) in Balochistan to help as many Afghans return home as possible,” Sharif said.
She noted that the UNHCR was striving hard to ease the burden of refugees on Pakistan and supported the country’s endeavours to ensure the provision of health, education, and other basic facilities to the refugees.
Murtaza Khazmi, an Afghan representative for the refugees said tangible improvement was being made in the law and order and security situation of Afghanistan, paving the way for a safe return of a large number of Afghans back home.
“The Afghan government has established 63 towns to accommodate refugees living in Pakistan and Iran,” Khazmi said, adding that further steps taken by government in the war-torn country would help the repatriation of refugees living in refugee camps in Pakistan.
Expressing his joy on returning to his homeland, one refugee said he was looking forward to being reunited with his family. “We are returning back to our land of birth,” Khan Mohammad said. He claimed that being the head of his family, he decided to return home and be reunited with the rest of his family. “I have been living along with eight family members in Pakistan for the last 30 years, but now, along with 40 other people, we are leaving for Afghanistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2012.