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More than 200,000 Afghan Refugees return to their war-torn country from Pakistan in last 5 Weeks

The undocumented Afghans are currently subjected to a Pakistani police crackdown, apparently to push them to go back to their country

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In this Monday, May 30, 2016 photo, Afghan internally displaced family are seen at their temporary home in a camp for internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA
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The United Nations says more than 200,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their war-torn country from Pakistan this year, more than half of them within the past five weeks, despite intensification in Taliban-led hostilities in Afghanistan.

The overall figures represent the highest number since 2007 when more than 360,000 refugees went back to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-sponsored voluntary repatriation program, officials noted.

Several factors are contributing to the unusual rise in the number of Afghan families choosing repatriation, but the exodus is “largely voluntary,” says Dunya Khan, a UNHCR spokesperson in Pakistan.

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In addition, she says Pakistan introduced a new border management system in early June to regulate movement and discourage illegal crossers on its nearly 2,600-kilometer porous frontier with Afghanistan.

Khan says the new border controls require Afghans to carry valid travel documents and visas to enter Pakistan, prompting around 6,000 Afghans to go back every day.

“There were many (refugee) families who were split in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many heads of the families were working in Afghanistan and coming to Pakistan to visit their families. Since the travel has been regularised, therefore, the majority of the Afghans think that for every trip it is not really possible to get a visa, and they have decided to go back to Afghanistan,” Khan explained.

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Pakistan still hosts about 1.5-million registered Afghan refugees, while another estimated one million are living illegally.

Afghan refugees wait for their documents to go back to Afghanistan at the UNHCR's Repatriation Center in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 23, 2016. VOA
Afghan refugees wait for their documents to go back to Afghanistan at the UNHCR’s Repatriation Center in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 23, 2016. VOA

For decades, Afghans were moving across the border on special permits, without any restrictions or Pakistani visas.

But rising tensions between the two countries over mutual terror allegations have prompted Islamabad to tighten the cross-border movement, saying it will help deter terrorist infiltration and ease bilateral tensions.

The undocumented Afghans are currently subjected to a Pakistani police crackdown, apparently to push them to go back to their country.

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Authorities say the illegal Afghan community, and in some cases even registered refugee populations, are being used by anti-state elements to plot terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

Khan says the UNHCR decision to double the cash grant for voluntary returnees from $200 to $400 per person in mid-June, and a newly-launched campaign by the Afghan government to encourage its displaced citizens to return to their country are also contributing factors for speeding up the voluntary repatriation process.

“The government of Afghanistan, for the first time, has proactively started advocating for Afghan refugees to come back to their country and take part in the nation-building process, and many Afghan people now feel that connection and the warm welcome which is being extended to them,” Khan noted.

The Pakistan government has been pushing Kabul to arrange for the return of nearly all Afghans because it insists their presence has put pressure on infrastructure and the local economy, which has increasingly upset host communities.

Under the policy, Islamabad has declined to agree to an Afghan request for extending the legal stay of refugees for two years. The government has only recently given the registered Afghans until next March to go back to Afghanistan, a long-delayed deadline.

Khan says the delayed announcement increased anxiety and insecurity among Afghan refugees, prompting many families to rush back to their country.

She added while UNHCR has not documented any significant instances in which registered refugees have faced police harassment and coercion, but such actions against undocumented Afghans have generally scared the displaced community.

U.N. officials estimate more than one million people will be on the move in Afghanistan by the end of this year because of displacements the Afghan conflict is causing and because of the large number of refugee families returning to Pakistan and Iran.

The Afghan government is also under pressure from the European Union to take back tens of thousands Afghan migrants seeking asylum there. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)