35,000 refugees return home

Published January 18, 2002

QUETTA Jan 17: According to the UNHCR staff monitoring selected border points from Iran and Pakistan, over 35,000 Afghan refugees returned home during the last two weeks, a UNHCR press release issued here on Thursday said.

Most of the recent returnees left Balochistan province of Pakistan where more than 25,000 refugees repatriated during the first half of January. Returns from Iran topped more than 10,800 during the first half of January, all of them crossing via the Dogharoun border, eastern Iran’s principal gateway to Afghanistan.

The number of those returning home from Pakistan’s rugged NWFP province is more difficult to gauge, the UNHCR staff reported.

Some 3,500 Afghan families — about 15,000 people — mainly minority Shiite Muslim refugees, have approached the UNHCR seeking repatriation assistance to Mazar-i-Sharif and other areas in central and northern Afghanistan.

Due to precarious security situation in many parts of Afghanistan and intense cold, the UNHCR does not plan to facilitate return movements until March.

Meanwhile, after weeks of appeals, Pakistani authorities gave permission to the UNHCR on Wednesday to relocate some 600 vulnerable Afghans from area adjacent to the Chaman border to a new location.—APP

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