Coming winter slows Afghan returns but over 17 million have gone back

With temperatures expected to drop in Afghanistan, the number of people returning home has recently decreased, but since March, over 1.7 million have repatriated, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today. “The rate of returns has dropped to around 20,000 in the past week from a high of 100,000 per week in May, mainly because of the approaching winter,” UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski told the press in Geneva. Of the overall returns since the agency started helping Afghans to repatriate in March, 1.5 million came from Pakistan. Several hundred thousand Afghans also went back from Iran. In another development, the spokesman reported today that a “huge” fire had destroyed UNHCR’s warehouse in Mashhad, Iran, last Wednesday. The refugee agency, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Iranian Government all lost food and supplies that had been stored in the warehouse. “UNHCR has asked authorities to conduct an investigation into the incident,” Mr. Janowski said. “Results of the investigation are expected in the coming days.”