PESHAWAR, Aug 21 (APP): Afghan refugees going back to their country are facing problems due to lack of basic facilities here at UNHCR’s Voluntarily Repatriation Center (VRC).
During a visit to the VRC Chamkani on Saturday, around 300 loaded trucks were found to be parked on G.T.Road in a long queue stretching over three kilometers, waiting for clearance by the authorities concerned.
The Afghan refugees, including men, women and children, have been on the green belt for days in open sky without the facilities of waiting rooms, drinking water, wash rooms, canteen, medicine etc, waiting from clearance from VRC.
“This is the third day I am stuck here along with eight family members including a recently operated minor boy,” Shaki Tour, who came from D.I.Khan for going back to Qundoos in Afghanistan.
Sitting in an under construction shop near the VRC, Shaki Tour told APP that it was very tough to stay here in such a hot and humid weather without having any electric fan.
He said getting clearance from the VRC was a cumbersome process, which took a lot of time. Thousands of people were stranded outside the VRC, but its staff was availing two-day weekly offs (Saturday and Sunday), he complained.
Due to the increasing number of Afghans going back to their motherland, the UNHCR and Afghan Commissionarate should make arrangements for continuing the clearance process even on weekly holidays, suggested Habibullah, a young Afghan carpet weaver, who along with 50 relatives came from Attock city for travelling to Mazhar Sharif.
“Our women and children are taking shelter under trees to escape from scortching sun and spending nights on the main road,” an exhausted Habibullah said.
He said,”Fear of snake or scorpion sting hounds our mind at night and we cannot take nap even for a moment to protect the women and children lying on road.”
Muhammad Noor, a resident of Qundoos, said majority of returning Afghans were unaware of weekly offs. They were coming from across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to increasing pressure from the administration.
Mir Hamza, a white bearded man who came from Lahore for going back to Kabul, said this was his third day and he did not know how much time it would take to get clearance from the VRC.
About 120 vehicles were parked ahead of his truck and there was no movement in the queue for the last couple of days, he claimed.
Hamza said keeping in view the increasing rush of Afghan refugees at VRC, the authorities should have made arrangements accordingly.
“We all have to use open fields as latrines, which is very humiliating for us,” said Abdus Salam, a middle aged Afghan refugee going back to Baghlan.
Apart from human beings, livestock are also suffering due to long delay in clearance of refugees.
A number of cows and goats are aboard the trucks braving harsh weather which cannot be unloaded because of being stuck up in between household goods.
“We are giving water and fodder to our animals, but cannot disembark them as otherwise we have to unfasten all our goods from the truck,” Hidayatullah who along with his family came from Haripur and was going to Baghlan.
When asked as to why did he not sell his livestock before going back to Afghanistan, he said he was not even getting 50 percent price of them and he could afford the loss.
When contacted, an official of Afghan Commissionerate on condition of not disclosing his name, told APP that the Commissionerate had requested the UNHCR to make arrangements for clearance of goods on weekly holidays.
The VRC, he claimed, was clearing around 600 families on daily basis and the two-day weekly offs was adding to the pile up.
About provision of basic facilities for waiting refugees, he said arrangements had been made inside the premises of VRC, but no facility was provided outside.
The official also disclosed that the UNHCR would soon open another VRC at Azhakhel area in Nowshera district to lessen refugees load at the Chamkani centre.
The UNHCR’s Media Coordinator, meanwhile, did not attend the call.