Afghanistan appeals for $550 million refugee fund

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UN Refugee Agency chief Antonio Guterres said helping returning refugees is key to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan. Photo: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré

Afghan authorities made an appeal at the UN on Wednesday for more than half a billion US dollars to help millions of refugees return home, and bring stability to their country.

The call for international funding follows an entreaty from Antonio Guterres, head of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to the international community to do more to help Afghanistan after decades of conflict.

The UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres made his comments in Geneva after warning that it would be a "dangerous mistake" to ignore the plight of some 4.5 million Afghans currently sheltering abroad, mainly in Iran and Pakistan.

Daniel Johnson has more.

After more than three decades of conflict and destruction in Afghanistan, almost six million Afghans have returned home, the UN Refugee Agency UNCHR says.

But some 4.5 million Afghans remain in neighbouring countries, principally Iran and Pakistan.

That's created a huge burden on these countries of asylum, and now they're backing a plan to help Afghans go home on a voluntary basis.

Afghan authorities expect about 100,000 refugees to return home this year, and they want USD $550 million to put projects in place that'll convince them to stay.

But amid continuing insecurity – highlighted by the recent storming of the northern city of Kunduz by the Taliban – there have been questions about whether it's the right time to launch such a project.

Not for UN Refugee Agency chief Antonio Guterres, who believes that helping more refugees head home is the key to a more peaceful Afghanistan.

Here he is speaking in Geneva:

"I must say I totally reject the idea that in a conflict situation we have to first end the conflict to start the development and the stabilisation process. The two things need to go together."

Under the appeal, returning refugees are set to receive land, education, services – such as healthcare – and livelihoods, with the creation of one million new jobs.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'24"

 

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