370,000 Afghans Returned Home This Year: UN

The United Nations says around 370,000 registered and undocumented Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan so far this year.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kabul issued the figures Sunday and said that nearly 52,000 Afghans crossed the border into Afghanistan last week alone, the highest single figure recorded in a seven-day period since 2009.

“Continued pressure by Pakistani authorities through new visa requirements, shorter extension of proof of registration cards, increased police raids, detentions and deportations, restricted access to livelihoods, health-care and education as well as lack of employment opportunities,” according to OCHA.

“In the past week, an average of 5,200 registered refugees and 2,160 undocumented returnees have crossed the border into Afghanistan from Pakistan each day. Based on current trends, a further 446,000 are expected to arrive before year-end,” according to the OCHA.

UNHCR said that with the help of local authorities and partner aid agencies it is providing support to both caseloads amid significant resource shortages.

“Aid agencies are in a race against time to provide this assistance before the arrival of the wet and winter seasons in November,” warned OCHA.

UNHCR officials in Pakistan acknowledge the exodus of registered Afghan refugees is “largely voluntary.”

They also note that the refugee agency’s decision to double the cash grant for voluntary returnees from $200 to $400 per person in mid-June, and a newly-launched campaign by the Afghan government to encourage the displaced families to return to Afghanistan and take part in the nation-building are among major contributing factors for the unusual rise in the number of Afghans choosing repatriation.

Pakistan hosts around 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees while another at least one million are living illegally. Most of the displaced families have fled decades of Afghan hostilities.

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