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AFGHANISTAN: UN prepares for repatriation of over half a million refugees


Photo: Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN
The UN Refugee Agency will provide ad hoc return assistance and relief to conflict-affected IDPs
KABUL, 5 December 2007 (IRIN) - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has asked for about US$100 million from donors for its Afghan operations in the coming two years, according to UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009.

The UNHCR will need over $49 million in 2008 and over $50 million in 2009 to assist 540,000 Afghan refugees who are expected to return primarily from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

“This 2008-2009 edition is the first Global Appeal to cover a two-year period. It corresponds to our new biennial budget cycle which, among other advantages, should help the predictability of funding,” Antonio Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement.

The new funding appeal shows a slight decrease in UNHCR’s budget for its Afghan operations. The UNHCR has a budget of about $52 million for its refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) support activities in 2007, Nader Farhad, a UNHCR spokesman in Afghanistan said.

Afghanistan is the second largest operation for UNHCR after Chad where it has demanded $73.6 million funding, the UNHCR document says.

Insecurity

The security situation and a lack of economic opportunities are two major concerns which have affected repatriation trends to Afghanistan in the past two years, Afghan officials and the UNHCR said.
''Insecurity and lack of land, shelter and livelihoods in Afghanistan are the main obstacles to return for refugees.''

“Insecurity and lack of land, shelter and livelihoods in Afghanistan are the main obstacles to return for refugees,” said the Appeal, which was released on 4 December.

Insecurity is also hampering aid agencies’ access to volatile parts of the country.

Almost half of Afghanistan’s 652,225sqkm territory is currently considered “extremely risky” by UN agencies, according to a leaked aid map of Afghanistan published by a British newspaper, The Times.

Another challenge is Afghanistan’s weak institutional capacity to effectively manage returnee and IDP affairs: “Despite UNHCR’s efforts, the capacity of relevant government counterparts remains limited due to the high turnover of officials both at the central and provincial levels,” says the UNHCR appeal.

Over four million Afghan refugees have returned to their country from Iran and Pakistan in the past six years. About three million Afghans still live in Pakistan and over one million live in Iran, the UNHCR reported in December 2007.

Ad hoc aid for IDPs

A combination of armed conflict between the Afghan government and anti-government elements, and natural disasters have displaced tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) estimates.

Most IDPs, mainly in restive parts of the country in the south, southeast and southwest, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, the president of ARCS told IRIN earlier.

The UNHCR plans to spend $114,310 on IDP assistance and support, the UNHCR global appeal says: “With respect to IDPs, in 2008 and 2009 UNHCR will provide return assistance on an ad hoc basis and will assist new groups such as battle-affected IDPs,” the appeal says.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

[ENDS]

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.