22 September 2005, UN News Center - The number of Afghan refugees returning home with United Nations assistance this year surpassed 400,000 today, bringing the total to just under 3.5 million since the operation began in 2002.
The repatriation is the biggest such organized operation globally this year, and easily the largest such operation overall in history, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Including those who returned without assistance, the overall total since 2002 has reached 4.2 million
Since the UNHCR programme began after the fall of the Taliban regime, 2.9 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan and 1.3 million from Iran. Three million Afghans are estimated to still remain in Pakistan and 900,000 in Iran.
The decision by the Government of Pakistan to close all refugee camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has triggered a sharp increase in Afghans opting to return. The most recent closures affected more than 100,000 people.
The majority have chosen to repatriate with UNHCR assistance, while others accepted the Pakistan Government's offer of relocation to other existing camps. The order to close the FATA camps was given on security grounds.
The return of former FATA residents over a brief, five-week period has put UNHCR's reintegration operations within Afghanistan under significant pressure, the agency said. Together with the relevant government ministries, other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UNCHR is working to ensure that families and individuals are able to settle into their places of origin before winter sets in.
Under this repatriation programme, each returning Afghan is eligible for transport assistance ranging from $4 to $37 and a grant of $12. The return assistance is complemented by programmes designed to help former refugees resume their lives in their original communities.
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