Afghan refugees go home from Pakistan

In March, upon resumption of the programme of repatriation from Pakistan, 30,733 refugees returned to Afghanistan, says the press release circulated in Islamabad on Thursday by the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees.

In 2004 the United Nations plans to provide assistance to 400,000 Afghans.

Since the start of the campaign for voluntary repatriation of refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan, over 1.9 million people have gone back home.

Under the trilateral agreement between the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN high commissioner's office, the voluntary-return process will continue until late 2005.

The UN representatives pay for returning refugees the cost of travel - from 3 to 30 dollars depending on the distance - and issue 8 dollars each for food and essentials.

A similar though not as large-scale programme is in operation in Iran, where, under the aegis of the UN office, 410,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan.

In the tentative UN figures, over 25 years of the civil war more than six million people have left Afghanistan, settling mostly in the North Western province of Pakistan whose population is mostly Pashtuns (as the Afghans call themselves), and in Iran.

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