Over 70,000 Afghan refugees return this year

The number of refugees voluntarily returning home to Afghanistan in 2010 reached the 70,000 mark this week.

According to a press release of UNHCR, with two and a half months of the peak repatriation period still to run, this year’s overall figure could reach over 130,000, more than double last year’s annual total.

“Despite security constraints and challenging socio-economic
conditions in Afghanistan, the voluntary repatriation of 70,000 Afghans demonstrates that many refugees are confident that there are opportunities available to return sustainably to their homeland,” said Mr. Mengeshe Kebede UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan.

The pace of returns has increased markedly in recent weeks averaging 806 individuals per day during June. Since the resumption of large scale repatriation operations in March 2002, repatriation trends have generally peaked during the period May to August.

Over the past few months, returning refugees have cited economic
factors and the difficult security situation in Pakistan, and local
improvements in security and employment opportunities in some provinces of Afghanistan as key reasons for deciding to return.

Speaking on the occasion of World Refugee Day in Kabul, Engineer Abdul Rahim, the Acting Minister for Refugees and Repatriation, said “It’s important to recall that there are still 2.7 million refugees registered with the authorities remaining in Iran and Pakistan. Continuing donor support for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development programmes is needed to attract more refugees home in future.”

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