UNHCR resumes repatriation of Afghans from Pakistan

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Kabul, April 3 (IANS) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday resumed its process of repatriation of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

UNHCR spokesperson Duniya Aslam said that so far 16,000 Afghan refugees had registered for repatriation in April and May.

The voluntary repatriation process began after the winter break with 195 families in Peshawar and two in Quetta, Aslam told Efe news.

She said that the initial aid sum of $400 that was being given to every Afghan returning to their country since June 2016 had been reduced to $200, owing to the paucity of funds.

The UNHCR had not been able to mobilise more resources, she said.

The organisation has been running a voluntary repatriation programme for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan since 2002 and provides aid for their return to Afghanistan, while the Pakistani government is in charge of undocumented Afghan nationals.

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Last year, at least 370,000 refugees returned to Afghanistan after spending decades in the neighbouring country, following Islamabad’s ultimatum on the issue, the increase in economic aid, detention of illegal Afghans and reinforcement of border control.

According to unofficial estimates given by sources close to the process, 250,000 moe unregistered Afghans have crossed the border into Pakistan.

The Afghan refugee community in Pakistan, estimated to be around 1.4 million registered and around 900,000 undocumented, is one of the largest and oldest in the world, according to the UNHCR

Although Pakistan has long demanded that Afghans leave their territory, Islamabad last year issued an ultimatum urging Afghans to leave the territory before December 2016, a date that was later extended by a year.

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