The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday assisted a group of 550 registered Afghan refugees in returning to Afghanistan’s Herat.
The repatriation took place under the Facilitated Group Return (FGR) initiative, and the refugees were repatriated from UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation centre in Baleli, Quetta.
“Voluntary repatriation is a cornerstone of the Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR),” said Dinesh Lal Shrestha, head of UNHCR Balochistan.
“We hope that with the formation of the National Unity Government and better livelihood prospects in some parts of Afghanistan, more refugees will opt to return to their homeland,” added Shrestha.
UNHCR has facilitated the return of over 50,000 registered Afghan refugees this year. From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 25,900 registered Afghan refugees opted to return; 9,000 from Balochstan, 11,300 from Punjab, 4,000 from Sindh and 2,800 from Azad Jammu Kashmir.Of the total 50,433 registered refugees who returned with UNHCR assistance, the majority, 34 per cent returned to the northern region of Afghanistan, followed by 31pc who went to the central regions while 19pc of the Afghan refugees returned to the eastern region. Only 9pc of the total returned to the south east while refugees returning to the southern regions remain lower than 5pc due to security concerns.
Since 2002, UNHCR has facilitated the return of 3.8 million registered Afghans from Pakistan. UNHCR has again urged the international community to increase their engagement for voluntary repatriation under the UNHCR assisted voluntary repatriation programme.
After the Army Public School (APS) attack in December last year, the repatriation of Afghan refugees has spiked. Around 3,000 to 4,000 refugees left for Afghanistan each month from January to March this year; during the same time period in 2014 (January to March), a total of 761 refugees had left Pakistan for Afghanistan.
The most popular province of asylum for refugees is KP, with 52pc of refugees settling in both urban and rural areas of the province. Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is the next popular option, followed by Punjab, with 25pc and 23pc of refugees settling in these regions, respectively.