PESHAWAR: The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has announced to resume the voluntary return of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan from August 10.

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 UNHCR said the centres for payment of money to returning Afghan refugees in Azakhel in Nowshera and Baleli in Quetta will also open on Monday and Tuesday next. These centres will provide guidance and help to the returning refugees during all procedures.

The UNHCR said the refugees not returning through the voluntary return centres will not be entitled to financial assistance and they will not have the facility to approach the similar centres in Afghanistan. It said the refugees who have not received financial assistance so far will receive $250 in the head of return charges.

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.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman Qaiser Khan Afridi says 1.4 million Afghan refugees are registered in Pakistan, including 800,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Qaiser Khan Afridi said the centres for repatriation of Afghan refugees have been set up in Nowshera and Quetta. He said after registration at these centres, the returning families receive financial assistance from the UNHCR and return to Afghanistan. He said there are 5,400 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.