U.N. Refugee chief pays visit to Afghanistan

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees begins a two-day visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday.

"High Commissioner Antonio Guterres, who took office in June, plans to travel first to Kabul, where he will meet President Hamid Karzai, other senior officials and UNHCR staff to discuss the repatriation and reintegration [of Afghan refugees] operation in the country," Nader Farhad, spokesman for the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said on Monday.

He added Guterres would also travel to the eastern city of Jalalabad, where he will visit recent returnees, UNHCR staff and local officials.

Since 2002, more than 4.4 million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan and Iran, 3.5 million of them assisted by UNHCR, according to the UN refugee agency.

"Guterres will also be briefed about longer-term prospects for Afghanistan's reconstruction, which are crucial for any successful return programme," Farhad explained.

More than 3 million Afghans remain outside their country, mainly in Pakistan and Iran. Guterres is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on Thursday for a two-day visit that will include an inspection of UNHCR's emergency assistance to victims of the devastating 8 Oct earthquake, as well as meetings with several senior Pakistani government officials, Reuters reports.


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