Pakistan to close largest Afghan refugee camp

March 1st, 2008 - 9:52 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, March 1 (Xinhua) Pakistan plans to shut down its biggest camp of Afghan refugees by April 15 and the affected Afghans may have to look for alternate camps or return to Afghanistan, the UN refugee agency said Saturday. The decision to close the Jalozai camp in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province was based on security concerns and endorsed by a tripartite commission comprising the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2006 and 2007.

Jalozai had been hosting nearly 110,000 registered Afghans who fled from their conflict-ridden country. Since the authorities began closing the sprawling settlement last August, some 25,000 inhabitants have returned to Afghanistan.

Fearing mass displacement and a humanitarian crisis on the eve of winter, UNHCR and the Afghan authorities had requested for a temporary suspension of the closure. Jalozai’s Afghan elders also signed an undertaking to vacate the refugee village between March 1 and April 15 this year.

They were given two options: voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan or relocation to another existing refugee settlement in Pakistan.

Afghans returning home with UNHCR help are entitled to an average cash grant of $100 each to cover their travel and initial reintegration expenses.

Some 80,000 registered Afghans still live in Jalozai.

Currently there are some two million registered Afghans living in different places in Pakistan. They are allowed to stay in the country till the end of 2009.

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