UNs top refugee official meets Afghan President tours camps for displaced persons

During their meeting on Sunday, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers and President Hamid Karzai agreed that the success of returns to the country would quickly turn into failure if Afghans could not reintegrate in their homeland.In order to address the problem, Mr. Lubbers said UNHCR would work to better link return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction, adding that development agencies would take responsibility for the latter stages. President Karzai welcomed this initiative and urged the international community to intensify coordination efforts among the UN agencies and with the Afghan Government.In what UNHCR billed as a “significant gesture” to resolve the problem of internally displaced persons in southern Afghanistan, the President on Monday sent his Minister of Repatriation, Enayatullah Nazari, to join Mr. Lubbers on his trip to Kandahar province. This marked the first visit by a government minister specifically to look at problems of displaced Afghans in the south.The officials visited two makeshift camps in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, where some 30,000 displaced people live in squalid, windswept encampments. While there, they met with ethnic Pashtuns who said they had left their farms in northern Afghanistan because of persecution.Mr. Lubbers told the displaced Afghans that staying in a camp would not be a solution to their problems, and pledged that his agency would work on a special step-by-step programme to help them, as agreed with President Karzai.Filippo Grandi, UNHCR’s top official in Afghanistan, told the group of Pashtuns that the Government would try to form a group to begin working on the return of people to northern Afghanistan. He added that government officials from their home region would come to Kandahar province, and that “go and see” visits for displaced persons would be organized so that they could visit their home areas. At the same time, Mr. Grandi warned the Afghans not to expect a quick fix.About 1.5 million Afghans have returned to their country since UNHCR and the Transitional Authority began a voluntary repatriation initiative in March.

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