Repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is scheduled to be-gin today at a time when the UN refugee agency has slashed cash grants for the refugees who opts for voluntary repatriation.
The repatriation this year was delayed for a month due the closure of the border in February. Repatria-tion would begin in March after winter break but the process now begins on April 3.
Pakistan had closed all crossing points over security concerns after a series of terrorist attacks killed 100 people and injured many more. The Afghan-based Pakistani armed groups claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks that include the massacre of devotees in Shabaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh.
Duniya Khan, spokesperson for the UN High Com-missioner for Refugees, told NNI that the refugee agency has made arrangements in Peshawar and Balochistan for the smooth repatriation.
Pakistan presently hosts 1.3 million registered Af-ghan refugees, according to the UNHCR. Nearly one million unregistered also live in Pakistan. The government has planned their documentation under a package announced in February.
A total of 370,000 registered Afghans returned in 2016 under UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation pro-gramme. At present Pakistan hosts 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees, according to the UNHCR. Nearly one million also live in Pakistan.
Duniya Khan would not comment how many refu-gees she expect would leave Pakistan this year. She said shortage of funding has forced the UNHCR to cut cash grants from 400 US dollars to 200 dol-lars for each returnee.
Those refugees who have registered themselves for repatriation so far with the UNHCR in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa would be repatriated in two months while the registration and repatriation will be an ongoing practice until November.
This would be the first repatriation after Pakistan unveiled its long-awaited policy about the manage-ment of refugees and Afghans nationals in Pakistan. Registered Afghan refugees are allowed to stay until the end of 2017 under the new policy while the government also decided to document Afghan na-tionals who currently have no identification.
Pakistan will prepare for the first time a national refugee law; and announced a relaxed and long-term visa regime for different categories of Afghan na-tionals including traders, students, patients and spouses.—NNI