UNHCR chief calls for peace in Afghanistan as refugees leave Pakistan
BELELI, Pakistan, Sept 17 (AFP) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata Sunday called for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan as she bade farewell to some 201 Afghan families who are to be resettled in their home country.
The families left the Belili camp, 10 kilometers (six miles) west of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province in a convoy of 35 trucks.
A total of 916 refugees, all ethnic Pushtuns, left the camp located near a Pakistan army base on the road to Chaman, bordering Afghanistan.
The returning refugees will be settled in Hilmand and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, UN sources said adding that each family will get 5000 rupees (about 90 dollars) and 300 kilogrammes of wheat upon their arrival in Afghanistan.
"I have come here to say goodbye to those who want to to go back," Ogata told AFP.
She stressed that the people of the war-torn country wanted peace.
"They are going back hoping peace will return soon," Ogata said.
Ogata was to leave later for the western Afghan province of Herat where she said she would hold talks with Taliban officials on the plight of the Afghan refugees.
Repatriation can be carried out if there is peace, she said adding the refugees also want education. "It is for this reason that I will discuss the human rights situation with the Taliban officials I will meet," she said.
"I am happy to be back home, but I am a bit worried, " said Mohammad, 36 who is returning to his home province of Hilmand.
"I was never involved in politics and I am Pushtun. I think I will have no problem," he said referring to the ethnic affinity of the ruling Taliban militia.
Ogata began her tour last week to focus on the plight of some 2.6 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran.
She has already held talks with Pakistan President Mohammad Rafiq Tarar and military ruler General Pervez Musharraf who called for increased international interest in ending the refugee crisis.
"I am fully aware it is a very heavy burden on people and the government of Pakistan" hosting 1.2 million refugees for the past 21 years, she said.
"There are still new outflows due to fighting" in Afghanistan, she added.
However she did not promise any increase in the assistance from the UNHCR which is already hit by "donor fatigue."
She described the repartiation of the refugees as a "complex issue which has to addressed in a comprehensive manner."
The commissioner will cross the border from Herat into Iran where she will visit several refugee camps holding about 1.4 million Afghan refugees.
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