Afghanistan Plans To Bring Back Millions Of Refugees

September 28, 2011
KABUL -- Afghan officials say an ambitious program is being planned to try and bring back millions of Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
The program, which will be discussed at an international conference on Afghanistan to be held in Tokyo next year, envisions the repatriation of more than 3 million Afghan refugees living mainly in the border regions of neighboring Iran and Pakistan.
Afghan Minister for Refugees and Returnees Jamohir Anuri told RFE/RL on September 27 that the government needs international assistance to successfully implement the program.
"Millions of Afghan refugees around the world live in difficulty, with many denied basic rights and access to health care, food, and shelter," he said. "We believe they have a better chance of receiving these things in Afghanistan."
But Anuri said that in order to implement the program Afghanistan would need $1 billion. "This is to accommodate the influx of returnees who will be looking for jobs and will need basic things in order to survive," he said.
Anuri said he recently went to Greece, Italy, and Turkey, where thousands of Afghan refugees are being held in detention.
"Afghan refugees in Turkey and Italy do not face any serious problems, but thousands of refugees in Greece are in very bad conditions," he said. "Many of them don't have any money and are victims of abuse."
Anuri said his ministry has been in contact with the Greek government, which has pledged to resolve the matter.
Information from the Ministry for Refugees and Returnees suggests that over 65,000 Afghan asylum seekers are in Greece, with only 70 of them having been granted residency by Athens.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 5 million Afghan refugees returned to Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 after international forces ousted the Taliban.
But it said the unstable security situation since then has displaced hundreds of thousands of Afghans internally and forced others to go abroad.
In its 2011 strategic plan, the UNCHR urged the international community to do more to help Afghanistan attract returnees from abroad.
It suggested implementing community-based projects to improve shelter and infrastructure and to grant financial assistance to those in areas where there are high numbers of repatriated refugees.
* This story has been amended to correctly reflect the source of Afghan refugee statistics. It is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, not the UN Commission on Human Rights.