30 July 2004 - More than half a million Afghans have gone home from Iran and Pakistan so far this year, bringing the number of returnees since 2002 to over 3 million out of the 4.6 million estimated to have fled decades of war and violence in their homeland, the UN refugee agency reported today.
The half million mark was passed this week, with more than 273,000 returning from Iran and over 230,000 from Pakistan, the two principal asylum countries, a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson said.
The pace of returns from both countries continues to be strong, and should continue through August as refugees head home for the start of the Afghan school year or as they complete harvests in asylum countries, Jennifer Pagonis told a briefing in Geneva.
UNHCR and its partners have also assisted 443,000 internally displaced Afghans return home since 2002. There are still more than 180,000 others, many living in camp-like situations in Kandahar and Heart provinces where they receive assistance.
Afghan refugees returning with the agency's assistance get a travel grant, plus a small cash amount to provide for basic needs on arrival.
More than 2.1 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan and over 920,000 from Iran since the programme began. Some 300 other returnees so far this year came from 13 other countries, including India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Austria.
... Payvand News - 8/2/04 ... --