KABUL - More than 60,000 refugees have returned home under the UNHCR's voluntary return operation during the current so far, the UN agency said on Saturday. The returnees included 43,000 from Pakistan and over 17,000 from Iran, the UNHCR said, adding the Pakistan return figure was 59 percent lower than in the same period last year, when over 103,000 returned home.
A statement from the UN agency called the lack of livelihood opportunities and shelter, as well as insecurity one of the most frequently cited reasons for not returning.
Pakistan is currently home to 1.7 million Afghan refugees, many of whom who have lived in exile for more than a quarter of a century. Half this population is people born outside Afghanistan and do not own property there.
The number of returns from Iran has doubled, compared to last year when around 7,500 Afghans were assisted home. "This increase appears to be due to economic pressures and the discontinuation of subsidies on basic goods and services by the Iranian government."
During the current year, most of the refugees returned to Kabul (26%), Nangarhar (14%), Herat (8%), Kunduz (8%), Kandahar, Laghman, Balkh, Baghlan and Paktia (4 percent each).
Initial findings of a survey launched recently by UNHCR and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation suggests around 40 percent of the returnees have not yet fully reintegrated into their communities.
Nearly three million registered Afghan refugees remain in exile in the region, including the 1.7 million in Pakistan and one million in Iran. "We are calling for international support to help returnees settle back in their homeland."