PESHAWAR: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday suspended the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the closure of the Torkham and Chaman border crossing points with Afghanistan.
The UNHCR took the decision due to precautionary measures taken by the federal government to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“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 in a press release.
The statement added that the voluntary repatriation program had resumed on March 2, 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.