An Afghan refugee family waits for transport at the repatriation centre in Peshawar. – AFP File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The number of Afghan refugees returning home from Pakistan declined sharply this year, according to figures released by the UN refugee agency on Saturday.

The UNHCR cited the lack of livelihood opportunities and shelter and a heightened sense of insecurity as the main reasons behind the trend.

According to the agency, the total number of Afghan refugees who returned home with its help during the first 10 months of this year stood at 60,000, compared to more than 100,000 during the same period last year.

Only 43,000 Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan, 17,000 from Iran and less than 100 from other countries. The number of returnees from Iran, however, rose from 7,500 a year earlier. The reason for increase in voluntary-assisted repatriation from Iran is because of economic pressures and discontinuation of subsidies on basic goods and services by its government.

The UNHCR halts its repatriation programme in Pakistan during winter.

Pakistan is currently home to 1.7 million Afghan refugees. Many of them have been living in exile for more than a quarter of a century. Half of them were born outside Afghanistan and do not own property there.

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