Acclaimed author and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini ended a five-day visit to Afghanistan today by highlighting the need for peace as the indispensable element in ensuring the safe and sustainable return of displaced Afghans.
“Finding long-term solutions to the Afghan refugee situation, including their sustainable return and successful reintegration, is directly linked to peace and stability across the country,” said Hosseini after the September 10-15 visit to the land of his birth.
It was the second trip to Afghanistan by the author of The Kite Runner and
A Thousand Splendid Suns since being appointed as a goodwill envoy for the UN refugee agency.
On Monday, Hosseini took part in a kite-flying event at Kabul’s Tapa Marajan hill in the run-up to International Peace Day on September 21. UNHCR, as part of its contribution to Peace Day, produced over 2500 kites and dispatched them to its offices around the country. Hundreds of children and adults, many of them returned refugees, took part in today’s event which was designed to draw attention to the continuing need for peace.
Security conditions in many parts of Afghanistan, notably in the south and south-eastern regions, remain a major obstacle to repatriation especially for hundreds of thousands of refugees still in Pakistan.
During his visit, Hosseini met with returnees and displaced Afghans around Kabul and in Parwan province and visited several UNHCR shelter and reintegration projects.
“After almost thirty years of conflict, peace is what all Afghans wish for. Bringing closure to the refugee chapter cannot be achieved without it” said Hosseini. “Operational space is shrinking. It’s also getting more challenging for humanitarian agencies to meet the essential needs of the most vulnerable people in conflict affected areas.”
Insecurity has greatly hampered the ability of agencies like UNHCR ability to provide assistance to those who need it the most. It has also caused some returned refugees to leave their homes again.
In addition to insecurity, the protracted conflict has gravely affected socio-economic conditions and opportunities in Afghanistan. Many Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan who are considering repatriation say the lack of jobs and basic services discourages them from return.
These realities are reflected in this year’s reduced repatriation figures. Since 2002, over 4.3 million Afghans have returned home with UNHCR’s assistance. But this year, the annual figure has only recently passed 52,000.
Hosseini left Afghanistan as a boy and was resettled in the United States. Since becoming UNHCR’s Goodwill Envoy in 2006, he has visited refugees, returnees and displaced people in Afghanistan and Chad.