First group of Afghan refugees in Kyrgyzstan returning home with UN help

Thirty-three Afghans boarded buses on Monday for a two-day trip home that will take them through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, a spokesman for UNHCR said at a press briefing in Geneva. UNHCR is providing transport for the refugees, while the Kazakh and Uzbek authorities have supported the process.Repatriation movements from Iran, meanwhile, continued despite clashes late last week in the south-western Afghan town of Zaranj that forced the UN agency to suspend returns via the Miljak crossing point for the second time since early April, said spokesman Kris Janowski.Some 63,000 Afghans – 16 per cent of the 400,000 targeted – have repatriated under the programme, including 3,000 persons who have returned via Zaranj. Though the Miljak/Zaranj crossing is temporarily closed, Afghan refugees in Iran’s southern Sisten and Baluchistan Provinces continue to repatriate via an alternative crossing at Islam Qala.Since the UNHCR/Afghanistan Interim Authority repatriation programme got underway in March more than 870,000 Afghans have returned home, including about 800,000 from Pakistan, according to Mr. Janowski. In addition, since late November last year, an additional 150,000 Afghans have returned on their own.In other news, the selection process for the upcoming Loya Jirga is expected to conclude tomorrow, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Tuesday. Approximately 761 delegates, including 20 women, have been elected so far in phase II of the process.Kabul, Herat, Kandahar and Gardez/Logar are the remaining regions yet to complete phase II, spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said, though they are expected to do so by Wednesday. read more