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UNHCR: Afghan returnees from Pakistan cross 200,000 mark
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21:12, August 05, 2008

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The United Nations refugee agency-assisted voluntary return of registered Afghans from Pakistan crossed the 200,000 mark for the current year over the weekend, with the majority of Afghans going home from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

This year's total of 202,774 returns include 173,910 from NWFP, around 12,000 from southwestern Balochistan, 3,729 from southern Sindh and some 13,200 from eastern Punjab, according to a statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Around 65 percent of Afghans returned from urban centers in Pakistan, while the rest went home from refugee villages.

On Sunday, UNHCR staff processed some 2,300 registered Afghans through the UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Centers (VRC) in the NWFP provincial capital of Peshawar, and the Baloch provincial capital of Quetta, including the 200,000th Afghan returnee. Monday saw some 1,512 registered Afghans returning home.

"The two UNHCR voluntary repatriation centers began processing registered Afghans in March and will continue to do so till the regular winter break in November. Currently more than 1,000 Afghans are leaving for home from these centers," said Ms. Guenet Guebre-Christos, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan.

"For the last three decades Pakistan has been a gracious host for millions of their Afghan brethren, who are fleeing a life-threatening situation inside Afghanistan," she said. "In return Afghans have immense gratitude to the people and the government of Pakistan for this unmatched hospitality."

The Afghan voluntary repatriation from Pakistan is governed by a tripartite agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UNHCR based on principles of voluntary, gradual and dignified return.

Pakistan is currently home to some 1.8 million registered Afghans mostly originating from Afghanistan's conflict-affected south and eastern regions or the drought-affected north.

Source: Xinhua/Agencies

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