Over 5mn Afghan refugees return home in 16 years: UNHCR

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Kabul, June 20 (IANS) More than 5 million Afghan refugees have returned to their militancy-plagued country over the past 16 years, a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) statement said here on Wednesday.

The statement was issued to commemorate World Refugee Day which falls on June 20 annually, reports Xinhua news agency.

On Tuesday, Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Affairs Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi said that nearly 6 million Afghans were still living as refugees, with nearly 2.5 million in Pakistan and almost the same number in Iran while the remaining were in other countries.

Since this January, some 332,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Iran and Pakistan, Balkhi added.

However, the UNHCR said in the statement that a “lack of access to services including education and health, adequate housing and land remain key critical challenges for returnees to rebuild their lives” in their homeland.

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It also urged the Afghan government and the international community to back the livelihood of the returnees, offer them economic opportunities, basic services and include them in political and social structures.

–IANS

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