Twice as many refugees returning to Afghanistan: UNHCR

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Twice as many Afghan refugees have been returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran this year than in all of 2009, the UN refugee agency said Friday.

"The number of people returning voluntarily to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran so far this year has exceeded 100,000, almost twice as many as last year," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"Some 95,000 of these are from Pakistan," he said, although he added that it was "still (too) early to determine the impact on floods on people returning to Afghanistan".

Interviews conducted with returnees indicate that most have headed back due to "economic reasons, difficulties in Pakistan and local improvements in security".

Last year, only 51,000 refugees returned voluntarily to Afghanistan amid insecurity in the country.

Some 4.5 million Afghans have returned to their homeland since 2002, after US-led forces brought down the Taliban government for sheltering Al-Qaeda leaders following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

© 2010 AFP

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