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350,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan: OCHA

ISLAMABAD: More than 350,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their war-torn homeland from Pakistan this year, shows UN data, with the torrent of people crossing the border expected to continue.

Earlier, in October, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said the number of documented Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan had soared past 200,000. But this week the body’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Afghanistan released updated figures that also include the number of undocumented refugees crossing the border. “So far this year, 162,186 undocumented returnees and 207,236 registered returnees (369,422) have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan,” an OCHA statement said, noting that the majority – some 333,000 people – had returned since July. “If that sounds like a lot, it is,” the statement continued. “Based on current trends, we expect a further 446,000 (both registered and undocumented) Afghans to arrive before year-end.”

The influx of refugees threatens to overwhelm Afghanistan, with authorities there already warning of a humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of people flee fighting within the country. The total number of persons displaced due to fighting since the start of the year stands at 323,500.