4,700 DPs cross into Afghanistan

Published March 8, 2002

ISLAMABAD, March 7: Some 4,700 Afghan refugees crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan on Thursday, the largest movement so far since the launching of a repatriation programme a week ago.

The 909 families crammed into 361 vehicles with their belongings have brought the number of returnees to nearly 14,000 since Friday.

In another operation, the UNHCR and the ministry of repatriation brought home 1,000 internally-displaced people in Kabul to their homes at Qara Bagh in the Shomali plain.

The refugees told the UNHCR they were in a hurry to go back in time for their children to enrol in schools opening later this month. Some said they wanted to cultivate their farms at the start of the planting season.

Initially, returnees under the programme comprised mainly of urban refugees. Most of them were heading for the Jalalabad-Kabul area, but others were proceeding to Bamyan and areas around Mazar-i-Sharif.

Since the establishment of the interim government in December, more than 160,000 Afghans have returned voluntarily.

Under the programme, the UNHCR provides each returnee 20 dollars or 100 dollars per family of five on arrival in Afghanistan.

They also receive 150 kilograms of wheat from World Food Programme, and from the UNHCR plastic sheeting, kitchen set, blanket and hygienic kit at their final destinations.

The UNHCR has opened a centre at Takhtabaig outside Peshawar at the Afghanistan border and relief aid at their final destinations.

The UN refugee agency plans to open six other registration centres in Pakistan.—APP

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