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UN to resume Afghan refugee repatriation from March 1

PESHAWAR: After a three-month winter break, the United Nations refugee authority (UNHCR) will be resuming its voluntary repatriation process for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan from next month.
In this regard, Pakistan-based refugees who wish to return to Afghanistan voluntarily, have been directed to contact their nearest facilitation centre.
The announcement, made on Saturday, stated that those Afghan refugees who had valid proof of registration cards (POR), could register with the UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Centres (VRC) at the Azakhel refugee camp in Nowshera district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) or in Balili area of Quetta district in Balochistan. While commenting on the repatriation process, UNCHR Solution Strategy Unit Director Fazal Rabi said that last year they had repatriated over 15,000 individuals. He added that a meeting on repatriation and facilitation of Afghan refugees is expected to be held on Monday where the issue will be deliberated in greater detail.
He added that they had established two centres and two entry points for refugees. One of these is located on the Chaman border with Afghanistan in Balochistan while the second centre was at the Torkham entry point in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
“Through these points, we will start repatriation from the first of March,” he said.
To a question, the director said that it used to be easy for refugees to cross the border and enter Pakistan. But with the deployment of the strict border management system apart from stringent immigration measures by both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the chances of refugees returning to Pakistan are limited. Last November, the UNHCR had halted the repatriation process for three months due to the extreme weather in Afghanistan.
Khyber administration abolishes 7 check posts
To expedite trade with Afghanistan and to smooth the hurdles, authorities in the Khyber Tribal District have decided to abolish seven check-posts which had been established on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Highway. Furthermore, cameras will be installed at the remaining checkpoints to monitor the behaviour of officers deployed there.
This was announced by Khyber Deputy Commissioner Mehmood Aslam Wazir on Sunday after he received multiple complaints against Jamrud Line Officer Amjid Afridi for establishing an illegal check-post on the highway in the district and for harassing and extorting truck drivers on the highway.
In light of the complaints, Khyber DC Wazir suspended Afridi, and also eased the route by abolishing seven check-posts from the highway. The DC also asked the relevant officials to install solar-powered closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras along the highway and check posts, feeds from which he would monitor himself for smooth communication.
The levies and khasadar officials manning these check posts were warned of malpractices and corruption.
While commenting on the issue, Wazir told The Express Tribune that apart from issuing the notification, he had asked the assistant commissioners of three tehsils to visit check posts in their areas to ensure smooth flow of trucks to and from the border and to address public complaints.
“We have published banners, erected signs for drivers on the Pakistan-Afghanistan highway and also placed contact numbers of the relevant authorities, including my own, for quick redress of complaints to end malpractices,” Wazir said.
Monitoring Desk

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The Kabul Times.