ISLAMABAD, Aug 26: The district administration and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday started voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from the capital by sending 165 refugees living in Afghan Basti in Sector I-11/1 to their country, a source told Dawn.

The source said a team of capital administration headed by assistant commission (Saddar) demolished 16 houses belonging to those sent back to Afghanistan.

On the first day of the operation, some 32 families were repatriated, the source said. The total number of Afghans living in the settlement is stated to be over 50,000.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR set up three registration camps in the Afghan Basti for the registration of refugees, the source said.

The UNHCR representatives have asked the Afghan nationals to get themselves registered with the camps as early as possible.

The capital administration had given the final notice to Afghan refugees in Islamabad last week for removal of their settlement in I-11/1 which was established about 25 years ago.

According to the government decision, the process of shifting of Afghan camps was to be started from August 15 and the whole process was scheduled to be completed by September 1.

The relocation of Afghan refugee camps is stated to be done due to security reasons.

The capital administration has decided that the law- enforcement agencies will use force against those refugees who refuse to be re-located or repatriated.

The source said many operations had already been conducted for the removal of Afghan Basti, but due to lack of political will all such efforts remained futile.

“Afghans living in Sector I-11 would be shifted to Kot Chandana in Mianwali if they were not repatriated within the set deadline of September 1,” he added.