ISLAMABAD, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations refugee agency has increased assistance package for registered Afghan refugee families, who are opting to return to Afghanistan under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary return program.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi made the announcement as he concluded his first tri-nation visit to Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, the UNHCR said on Wednesday.
"As an immediate step, he announced to double the existing individual assistance package for returnees from an average of USD 200 to USD 400 per person," a UNCR's statement said.
The High Commissioner reassured the Pakistani leadership of UNHCR's continued support in assisting the 1.5 million Afghan refugees currently residing in the country.
The Proof of Registration Cards, or PoRs, that allow registered Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan will expire on June 30 and the government has not yet extended its period.
Afghan officials say they have requested Pakistan to extend the PoR cards for two more years so they are able to make arrangements to accommodate the returnees.
Besides the registered ones, Pakistan also hosts about one million un-registered Afghan refugees, and Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed on a plan to document the unregistered Afghans.
There is now a concerted push from the Pakistan government to repatriate a large number of the almost one million refugees living in the Peshawar district. UNHCR has set aside funds for 60,000 returnees. But so far this year just over 6,000 have actually crossed the border permanently, according to the UNHCR.
The High Commissioner also called on the international community to redouble their engagement in Afghanistan and support the efforts of the National Unity Government at this critical juncture of its nation building and reconciliation processes.
Commending Pakistan's generosity for hosting one of the world's largest protracted refugee populations, the High Commissioner noted that the international community needs to support solutions in Afghanistan through robust development investments.
"Traditional approaches to solving protracted refugee situations were not enough and therefore there is a need for innovative solutions," Grandi said.