ISLAMABAD: The office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced on Tuesday that the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been suspended because of closure of the Torkham and Chaman border-crossing points with Afghanistan.
This is due to precautionary measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Centres in Azakhel, Nowshera in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baleli, Quetta in Balochistan, are, therefore, closed until further notice. The Encashment Centres in Afghanistan have also been closed.
“We have temporarily suspended voluntary repatriation due to the extenuating circumstances. The UNHCR’s utmost priority is to support global efforts on lessening the spread and impact of COVID-19, and to assist the Government of Pakistan with its comprehensive preparedness and response plans,” said UNHCR Deputy Representative in Pakistan, Iain Hall.
The voluntary repatriation programme resumed on March 2 this year after a three-month winter break. Nine families — a total of 28 individuals — returned to Afghanistan this month.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020