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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 23:49 GMT
Afghan refugees 'need more aid'
By Pam O'Toole
BBC regional analyst

File photograph of Afghan refugees in Iran
One million Afghan refugees could repatriate by the end of 2006
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers has urged donor governments to step up reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.

The aim is to help millions of Afghans return home from Pakistan and Iran.

At the end of two days of talks in Brussels, Mr Lubbers told a news conference one million Afghan refugees could repatriate by the end of 2006.

But he also urged Islamabad and Tehran to adopt a more relaxed attitude to migrant workers.

He said they might consider giving permanent residency to refugees who wanted to stay.

So far Iran, in particular, has been vocal in its insistence that all Afghans should return home.

Since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, around three and a half million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan and Iran in UNHCR's largest ever voluntary repatriation programme.

But these two countries still host several million more Afghan refugees and are also concerned about the number of economic migrants from Afghanistan on their soil.

Mr Lubbers said Islamabad and Tehran were asking for increased international assistance to improve conditions in Afghanistan and encourage more Afghans to go home.


During a BBC interview, the high commissioner was asked whether the ideal was for all Afghans to return eventually.

"Not at all, no. I think of those who are still in Pakistan and Iran, substantial numbers let's say for the coming years will still go back and we will give them repatriation packages," Mr Lubbers said.

"And what's very important is to improve the international support for the reintegration programmes and rehabilitation in Afghanistan.

"But having said all that, the ambition is not to return all."

The UNHCR is aware that some Afghans, fully integrated or gainfully employed in their host countries, may not want to return home.

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