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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Afghan refugees return home
First Afghans return from Indonesia
About 200 are expected to come back from Jakarta
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By Ian McWilliam
BBC correspondent in Kabul
line

A group of Afghan migrants who were stranded in Indonesia have flown back to the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Returnees wait in Kabul transit camp for transport to northern Afghanistan
Many refugees return home to find a devastated land

They are the first of about 200 intending to return to Afghanistan from Indonesia with the help of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Many of the nearly 40 migrants in this group fled Afghanistan under the Taleban, but were shipwrecked or arrested while trying to get to Australia.

The Afghans were greeted by delighted relatives on their arrival at Kabul airport after their three-day journey from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, via Dubai.

Smuggled

Many had fled Taleban-ruled Afghanistan, paying up to $4,000 to people-smuggling gangs to get them to Australia, where they hoped to claim asylum.

A distraught Afghan mother waits in Jakarta with her baby
All say they are delighted to be back

The criminal gangs sent migrants by sea from Indonesia into Australian waters.

But many of the ships were in poor condition, and a number of the migrants said their ships had sunk en route.

Those who were fortunate enough to be rescued ended up in Indonesian refugee centres.

Others had been arrested when their ships were still in Indonesian waters.

Happy return

The IOM has offered to help Afghans in Indonesian refugee centres to return voluntarily to their homeland, now that the Taleban are gone and a measure of stability is returning to the country.

This was the first group to be flown back but a second, larger, group is expected to arrive from Indonesia in a week's time.

The IOM has found jobs for a small number of the returning migrants under its programme to encourage expatriate Afghan professionals to return to help rebuild normal life in the country.

Others are returning without work and to families who have been scattered around the country by war.

But after their troubles abroad, all say they are delighted to be back.

See also:

28 Apr 02 | South Asia
Karzai urges Afghans to come home
19 Apr 02 | South Asia
Aid plea as Afghan refugees pour back
14 Apr 02 | South Asia
UN refugee chief visits Afghanistan
10 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Protests at Australian detention camp
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
The cost of rebuilding Afghanistan
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