PESHAWAR: The voluntary return of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan resumed on Monday.

The process of voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan was suspended in March this year owing to the fears of spread of coronavirus.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman Qaiser Khan Afridi said the centres to process return of Afghan refugees in Azakhel in Nowshera will remain open on Mondays and Tuesdays. He said the centre will provide guidance and help to the returning refugees during all procedures.

The UNHCR spokesman said the refugees not returning through the voluntary return centre will not be entitled to financial assistance and they will not have the facility to approach the similar centres in Afghanistan. Afghan refugees opting to return will receive a cash grant of USD 250 per head upon their return in Afghanistan.

The UN refugee agency said the refugees having coronavirus or any other disease have been advised not to come to any centre for voluntary return.

Qaiser Khan Afridi said 1.4 million Afghan refugees are registered in Pakistan, including 825,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Mr Afridi said the centres for repatriation of Afghan refugees are functioning in Nowshera and Quetta. He said upon return, the returning families will receive financial assistance at the Encashment centres in UNHCR. Under RAHA, there are 4,300 projects for registered Afghan refugees in which they are given facilities of education, health and other needs. He said the refugees in one way are benefiting Pakistan in the head of labour, taxes and business activities.

After the Russian attack on Afghanistan in 1979, a large number of refugees came to Pakistan and most of them settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and still the number of refugees is much higher in KP than other areas of the country.

According to the UNHCR record, most Afghan refugees in Pakistan are settled in KP. At present, there are a total of 825,000 registered Afghan refugees in KP, Balochistan has 325,000 refugees, Punjab has 160,000 and Sindh has 65,000 refugees.