PESHAWAR: The Afghan Commissionerate and United Nations High Commissioner Refugees are suspending voluntary repatriation of refugees from Friday (today) on account of winter in their home country.

An official told Dawn here on Thursday that voluntary repatriation from Pakistan would remain suspended till March 1, 2018. He said that the process was being stopped due to winter and all voluntary repatriation centres in the host country would be closed till next year.

He said that refugees avoid going back to their country in winter and the UN agency had to suspend the operation from December to March every year. The official said that around 48,000 refugees, of 1.4 million residing in Pakistan, had returned to their country since March last.

“This season the return operation was extremely slow and average six to seven families were approaching repatriation centres daily,” he said. The registered Afghan refugees would lose their legal status by the end of December and the federal government would decide whether to extend their duration or not.

Officials said that over 400,000 refugees had gone back to Afghanistan in four months last year in addition to 250,000 undocumented Afghan citizens who headed to their country without receiving cash assistance from the UN agency.

The UNHCR pays $200 to every registered refugee who intended to return to their country.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2017

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