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UN prepares to facilitate voluntary return of IDPs 

13 November 2010 12:12:57 nm

UN prepares to facilitate voluntary return of IDPs

The United Nations refugee agency has said it is preparing to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan who fled military operations in South Waziristan last year to return to their villages after some of them expressed their desire to go back home.

A survey carried out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners among 2,000 families who sought shelter in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa province showed that 85 per cent of them want to return to 13 villages in South Waziristan, the agency’s spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva.

The voluntary returns will commence next month, Mr. Edwards said, adding that those who want to go back represent a quarter of the total number of the IDPs from South Waziristan, which is currently estimated at 8,000 families or 56,000 individuals.

Forty-four per cent of respondents in the survey said they would like to return immediately, while 26 per cent said they would go back in six months. The main reasons given for wanting to return were improved security, the desire to restart farming activities and children going back to school.

About 10 per cent of the respondents said a family member had already visited their villages of origin, which they fled in October last year when the military launched an offensive against militants in the area.

The main reasons given by those not ready to return were uncertainty about the security situation, damaged homes and the lack of livelihood opportunities, electricity, food and education facilities.

UNHCR will provide transport, tents, building material and household items for those going back, Mr. Edwards said.

“We are also providing basic construction material to help those with damaged houses to rebuild. UNHCR will also support ‘go and see visits’ for those people who have not yet been home to see the situation first hand so they can make an informed decision about whether to return,” he said.

Across north-western Pakistan, some 700,000 people from the tribal areas remain displaced having fled various waves of conflict since August 2008.

The most recently displaced are from Orakzai agency. They fled in January this year and most of them live among host communities in Kohat, Hangu, and Peshawar, renting rooms or staying with relatives.

Some 97,000 people are hosted in the Jalozai camp in Nowshera district, including thousands from Bajaur agency who are facing a third winter in the camp.