Pakistan on Monday resumed its mass repatriation of Afghan refugees despite past accusations of coercion in the supposedly voluntary UN programme to return hundreds of thousands to their country.
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The operation, which saw 380,000 registered refugees sent back from Pakistan in 2016, was halted in December for a routine winter break. “The UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme for registered Afghan refugees resumed today,” Duniya Aslam Khan, a spokeswoman for the refugee aid body, told AFP.
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The UN had cut its cash grant for returnees from $400 to $200, she confirmed, citing “financial constraints facing humanitarian operations worldwide”. The grant was doubled in 2016 and became a factor in the surge of returnees across the border to Afghanistan after July last year, the UN said.
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But fears of a crackdown by Pakistan on refugees, many of whom left Afghanistan decades ago, also contributed. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a scathing report in February accused Pakistan of coercion, threats and abuse in the mass repatriation, and the UN of complicity.