Assistant High Commissioner to Visit Afghanistan

The Assistant High Commissioner for Operations is to start a two day visit to Afghanistan today, July 29.
This visit is part of a wider regional mission by Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins which will also take her to Pakistan and Iran, said in a statement released by UNHCR today.

This is her first visit to Afghanistan, She will be reviewing UNHCR’s operation in the country and will discuss key questions for returnees including security conditions, shelter, landlessness and socio-economic prospects, according to the statement.

Ms. Cheng Hopkins is scheduled to meet the second Vice-President and several ministers and deputy ministers involved in the return and reintegration of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, of Refugees and Repatriation, of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. She will also meet representatives of donor countries.

One of the most important aspects of her trip will be a series of field visits. She is scheduled to visit a shelter programme in Parwan and the land allocation site (Beni Worsek in the Baghram district) where returned refugees received plots of lands and are currently building their homes. She will also hear first hand about people’s experiences when she visits the co-existence project in Istalif, one of the districts of Kabul.

Speaking ahead of her visit, the UHNCR representative in Afghanistan, Mr. Salvatore Lombardo said: “We look very forward to this visit. It comes at a crucial time for the future of returnees in Afghanistan as well as refugees living in neighboring countries.”

He went on to say: “The visit will be an opportunity for Ms. Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins to hear first hand about the experience of refugees returning to Afghanistan as well as the challenges they face, including security, housing, job prospects as well as health and education provision.”

Since 2002, UNHCR has helped some 160,000 returnee families build their homes across the country. This ongoing programme will see a further 10,000 homes built by the end of this year. Ms. Cheng-Hopkins will leave for Pakistan on 31st July, after which she will head to Iran to review UNHCR operations in those countries.

So far this year, more than 90,000 registered Afghans have voluntarily returned home from Pakistan and Iran, benefiting from the enhanced repatriation cash grant of USD 100 average per person. From March to mid April, 206,000 unregistered Afghans also benefited from the same assistance under an exceptional programme that permitted their return. More than 4,023000 million Afghans have been assisted home from the neighboring countries since UNHCR launched the voluntary return operation in 2002, making it one of the largest repatriation operations in the world.

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