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COVID-19, insecurity slow Afghan refugee returns from Pakistan, Iran


The U.N. refugee agency reports the COVID-19 pandemic, violence and insecurity in Afghanistan have discouraged Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran from returning to the homes they fled many years ago.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran began going home in droves.  U.N. refugee spokesman, Babar Baloch, tells VOA he witnessed huge numbers of people who had been living in exile, many for more than two decades returning.

“I was present at the border point in Pakistan where Afghans were going in thousands,” Baloch said. "So, we saw at least more than a million initially during 2002 and the coming years.  And since then, we have at least helped through UNHCR’s voluntary return program at least nearly five million Afghan refugees that have gone home, mostly from Pakistan and Iran.”