UN aims to repatriate 100,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan
Afghan rivals preparing for spring offensive
Taliban, Masood evenly poised to test their swords
Iran and UN plan return of 1.4 million Afghans

Irna, Feb.23, 2000

Vienna, United Nations, Feb. 23, Irna -- Iran and the UN refugee agency have signed an agreement that aims to repatriate the 1.4 million Afghan refugees in Iran and end the forcible deportation of people who would be in danger if sent back, a spokesman for the agency said on tuesday. Speaking to the press in Geneva, Kris Janowski said that the agreement, which was signed last week by a representative of the UNHCR and the head of Iran's Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs, will give Afghan refugees without proper documents six months to come forward and either apply for return or make a case for remaining in Iran. approximately 90,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their home country since Iran dropped its open-door policy toward Afghans in late 1998, citing public pressure and a worsening economy. Under last week's agreement, UNHCR will be given a say in determining whether those coming forward will return or be allowed to remain, the spokesman said. UNHCR will also help to establish transit camps in several provinces to register the refugees and to handle their cases. Those allowed to return will receive food and cash grants.

UN aims to repatriate 100,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan

AFP, Feb.23, 2000

KABUL, Feb 23 (AFP) - UN officials Wednesday proposed that 100,000 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan should be repatriated this year, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

The proposal was made by the head of the UNHCR mission in Afghanistan, Ahmed Said Farah, during talks in Kabul with Taliban and Pakistani officials, UNHCR spokesman Yousouf Hassan said.

Pakistani officials were disappointed the figure was so low, a participant at the meeting in the Intercontinental Hotel said.

But the Taliban Minister for Repatriation Abdul Raquib welcomed the proposal and said the Islamic militia was prepared to meet the UNHCR's condition that girls sent home would receive an education.

The hardline militia has imposed its ultra-strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law on the 80 percent of the country it now controls, which bans women from working and girls from going to school.

The minister said that girls repatriated from Pakistan last year were being taught a few hours a day in mosques or in Koranic schools as the Taliban lacked funds to build schools.

Farah said that in 1999, 92,000 refugees were sent back to Afghanistan as part of a programme which provided them with transport, shelter, food and 90 US dollars in financial aid to get started.

Such repatriations are strictly voluntary, added Farah, who stressed the UNHCR would not send anyone "somewhere where he did not want to go."

He said 1,488 families had already agreed to the UNHCR repatriation programme for which the body launched a 5.3 million dollar international appeal.

According to the UN organisation there are some two million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, including 1.2 million in North West Frontier Province and 500,000 in Baluchistan.

The Pakistani authorities have said they want all the refugees to return to Afghanistan as they are placing a heavy burden on the country.

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