Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Description of Selected News

Description of Selected News: "UN resumes repatriations of Afghan, Iraqi refugees from Iran


TEHRAN (AFP) -- The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced Wednesday it had resumed repatriations of Afghan and Iraqi refugees from Iran following a suspension due to violence in the two countries.

"Thanks to the efforts made by UNHCR colleagues in Afghanistan, who are working under difficult circumstances, we are now able to facilitate the crossing of the 1,627 Afghan refugees who had been stranded at the border and complete their voluntary repatriation," said UNHCR representative Philippe Lavanchy.

UNHCR was Sunday forced to suspend the bulk of its operations to repatriate Afghan refugees from Iran following an attack on its offices in the western Afghan city of Herat.

Herat is a key transit and assistance point for around 95 percent of Afghan refugees returning home from Iran. In recent weeks, repatriations have risen as high as 4,000 people a day, but around one million Afghans remain in the Islamic republic.

Two UN buildings in Herat were attacked Sunday by demonstrators protesting the dismissal of governor Ismael Khan by the central government of President Hamid Karzai.

Although the UNHCR's offices there have been almost completely destroyed, a very limited number of UN staff are still working in the city.

In addition, Lavanchy said the UNHCR had also resumed its smaller-scale repatriations of Iraqi refugees. Operations were suspended a month ago due to heavy fighting with Shiite militiamen across southern and central Iraq.

He said 251 Iraqi returnees crossed back home via southern Iran earlier Wednesday."

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