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Where do you work in the region?

 Over five million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002.  The flow has slowed down in the past two years, but was still over 250,000 each year.  Most of those returning have tended to settle in and around Kabul and in the provinces in east central Afghanistan rather than returning to their areas of origin. Some returnees are again leaving for neighboring countries in what has been labeled “reverse migration” due to insecurity, a lack of housing, transport or basic services, and few opportunities for work.  Close to three million Afghan refugees remain outside the country; over two million of them in Pakistan and nearly a million in Iran.

What are the major challenges for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region?

The internal situation in Afghanistan remains fragile. Illegal militias continue to attack government forces and civilians -- creating an atmosphere of instability, particularly in the southeast of the country. The years of violence and instability have wrought havoc on the infrastructure, with homes, schools, health facilities, markets, and roads destroyed. Returning refugees, many of them from outside Afghanistan, often find it difficult to reintegrate. 

Iran has expelled over 240,000 undocumented Afghan economic migrants in 2008, adding to over a million expelled in prior years. The returns of these illegal economic migrants have increased the burden on the Afghan government and international assistance organizations. Under a tripartite agreement among Afghanistan , Pakistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR), two refugee camps have been closed in Pakistan . Refugees were given the choice of returning to Afghanistan or relocating within Pakistan . In the fall of 2008, Pakistan agreed to work to extend the period of stay for Afghan refugees holding Proof of Registration cards. Also, violence in Pakistan over the summer of 2008 created several hundred thousand (exact numbers are unknown) internally displaced persons. The U.S. government is funding both international organizations and NGOs to respond to this new crisis.

How much Bureau funding went to projects in the region in fiscal year 2007 (October 2007 – September 30, 2008)?

The Bureau programmed almost $80 million for refugees, returnees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Asia, of which just under $52 million was for assistance to Afghans.

Where are your Refugee Coordinators based? Which countries do they cover?

There is a Regional Refugee Coordinator in Kabul, responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.  She has two locally-employed staff members attached to her office in Kabul and one in Islamabad.

Which international organization (IO) and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are active in your region?

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 
International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)
World Food Program (WFP)
Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)
Afghan Center 
American Refugee Committee (ARC) 
Christian Children’s Federation (CCF) 
Church World Service (CWS) 
International Medical Corps (IMC) 
International Rescue Committee (IRC) 
Save the Children (StC)
Women for Women International
Mercy Corps 
Shelter for Life
United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

11/19/08 -- U.S. Support to Afghan Refugees and Returnees

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