Voluntary repatriation for Afghan refugees suspended temporarily

Islamabad: Following the closure of the Torkham and Chaman official border-crossing points with Afghanistan, the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been suspended. This is due to precautionary measures taken by the Government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Centres at Azakhel, Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baleli, Quetta in Balochistan are therefore closed until further notice. The Encashment Centres in Afghanistan have also been closed.

 “We have temporarily suspended voluntary repatriation due to the extenuating circumstances. UNHCR’s utmost priority is to support global efforts on lessening the spread and impact of COVID-19, and to assist the Government of Pakistan with its comprehensive preparedness and response plans,” said the UNHCR Deputy Representative in Pakistan, Iain Hall.

The voluntary repatriation programme had resumed on 2 March 2020 after a three-month winter break. Nine families – a total of 28 individuals – have so far returned to Afghanistan this month.

Pakistan hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees (holding Proof of Registration cards). Since 2002, some 4.4 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation operation.