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5/8/04

Afghan refugee returns surpass 3 million - UN

7 May 2004 - More than 3 million Afghans encamped in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran or displaced inside Afghanistan have been repatriated since the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) started helping them home in early 2002, the agency said today.

More than 2 million people have been repatriated from Pakistan and another 700,000 from Iran, while 440,000 more have been resettled from inside Afghanistan, UNHCR said.

Returning refugees a given a grant ranging from $3 to $30 per person to cover the costs of transportation, plus $8 apiece in place of food aid and other items that were provided to returning refugees in previous years.

The programme has achieved such impressive totals despite enormous obstacles, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva. "Many Afghans have obviously decided that improving conditions in many parts of their homeland make repatriation feasible," Peter Kessler told a press briefing. "While some parts of the country are still facing security problems, others are reporting improved security and expanding economic opportunities."

In another development, UNHCR this week opened seven dispute settlement committees in various cities throughout Iran to help facilitate the return of refugees from that country who may be facing outstanding legal disputes.

The committees rely on mediation and arbitration to resolve such issues as non-payment of salary or refusal to return rental deposit. UNHCR hopes this will help many Afghans who want to return immediately, but cannot go because of money still owed to them in Iran, Mr. Kessler said.

... Payvand News - 5/8/04 ... --



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