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Afghanistan: International Assistance

Volume 461: debated on Friday 15 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. (143181)

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is regularly assessed by the Afghan Government and the UN. DFID is in close touch with the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) and the UN on these issues, which include the situation of refugees and returnees, those affected by severe weather conditions and those affected by mines.

Since 2001 over 4.8 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan. During a six week grace period from March-May 2007, 200,000 refugees returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan with assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Statistics indicate that Kabul, Nangahar and Kunduz are absorbing the largest number of returnees at 51 per cent. UNHCR state they are coping well with the influx of returnees and are facilitating safe returns, which includes addressing any problems returnees may face on their journey back to Afghanistan, and providing any support once they have arrived at their final destination.

We have received a number of reports from diplomatic and other sources on the expulsion of illegal Afghan migrants from Iran. We are in close contact with the Government of Afghanistan and the office of the UNHCR on this issue. The UN WFP has despatched food to Zaranj, the main entry point into Afghanistan for families being deported from Iran.

Severe weather conditions like the recent rains and snow melt in Helmand caused considerable flooding. The Provincial Government response was supported by the UN, which has provided assistance to 735 households (5,145 people). The UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) supported a request to air-lift a pump to the dam. No further request for PRT assistance has been made to date.

17 per cent. of the Afghan population are living in one of 2,374 mine-contaminated communities. DFID has provided up to £1.4 million this year as part of HALO’s three year global mine action programme for 2007-10.