Sunday, April 2, 2017

UN Cuts Cash Incentive to Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

Voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan is set resume on Monday with a cut in the cash incentive for returnees, a UNHCR official said on Sunday.

The repatriation grant for registered Afghan refugees this year has been set to $200 from the previous amount of $400.

Pakistan hosts 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees, in addition to nearly a million unregistered Afghans, of which 600,000 live in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan.

"The amount before [the cut] at least helped us with our basic needs during our return to Afghanistan, but something is at least better than not having money at all ... an uncertain future awaits us," Ilyas, an Afghan refugee in Pakistan, who sells ice-cream in Peshawar, told Al Jazeera.

UNHCR said that the cut was due to funding shortages, but many Afghans still continued registering to leave.

"We could not sustain the amount of $400 for Afghans leaving Pakistan due to budget cuts, but the money they get will at least cover their transportation cost," Dunya Khan, spokesperson for the UNHCR in Islamabad, said.

Some 16,000 refugees have registered themselves for repatriation this week with the UNHCR programme in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan justified the move to deport registered and unregistered Afghans on the grounds of national security, accusing some the refugees of posing a threat, which has led to a crackdown on the community.

By the end of last year, as many as 370,000 registered refugees had returned under UNHCR's repatriation programme.

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