Jalozai refugee camp to be closed by mid-April
* Refugees to return to Afghanistan or be relocated to camps in Dir
PESHAWAR: The government has decided to abolish the Jalozai Refugee camp in Nowshera district by mid April despite protest by inhabitants that situation in Afghanistan was not favourable for their return.
Located around 30 kilometres east of Peshawar, the camp, one of the oldest in the country, was scheduled to close down in August last year. However, the process was halted following request by elders of the camp for an extension of another six months. However, as the extension period is going to expire by end of this month, the dwellers say they are not ready to move to their country due to non-availability of basic facilities such as clean drinking water, health and education. Besides, security situation is also mentioned as the major block in their return to Afghanistan.
Afghan elder Malik Gul Khan told Daily Times, they would move into the nearby villages if the government forced them to vacate the camp. How can we go back when there is no health and education facilities while the security situation is worsening day by day, he questioned. Thirty five-year-old Asadullah, resident of Gardez city in Afghanistan, said they did not want to return to Afghanistan without the provision of proper shelter, and facilities like health and education.
However, officials say the refugees have no option but to return to their country under the UN sponsored Voluntary Repatriation Programme. Afghan Refugees Commissioner Dr Imran Zeb told Daily Times that there would be no further extension. “Jalozai refugee camp has to be closed and all the legal inhabitants will have two options — either to move to their country or be relocated to other camps.”
He said the camp was to be shut down in August last year, however, the process was halted due to the upcoming winter season and the month of Ramazan (fasting month). Following an undertaking from the elders, an extension of six months was given which is going to end this month, he explained.
Relocation: The commissioner said they would be shifted to refugee camps in Dir. The first option with inhabitants of Jalozai camp was to move to their own country while the second was their relocation to Dir district, he elaborated. Dr Imran said the repatriation process of refugees would begin in the first week of March and would continue till mid April, following which the camp would be closed. Around 80,000 Afghan refugees are presently living in the Jalozai camp. daud khattak