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Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
UNHCR scales back returnee assistance operations after employee is murdered
Considering the statistics they have been accumulating about the flood of returnees and the dire situation that many of them are in (see last article in block), this is a disappointing decision.
UNHCR suspends activities after staff member killed in eastern Afghanistan --------- KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov 17 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency has suspended its activities in an eastern Afghan province following the brutal murder of a staff member in Ghazni last weekend. Bettina Goislard, a 29-year-old French national, was travelling in a clearly-marked UNHCR vehicle through the centre of Ghazni city on Sunday when gunmen pulled up on a motorcycle and opened fire with a pistol. The city's residents rushed her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Her driver was in stable condition despite suffering a bullet wound in his arm, while another UNHCR local staff escaped unharmed. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers denounced the attack as "yet another dastardly assault on an innocent humanitarian worker." Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's Chief of Mission for Afghanistan, said, "We are deeply shocked and greatly angered by the senseless murder of Bettina, who was an exemplary young colleague who was actively seeking ways to help people in need. Her dedication to the Afghan people was truly extraordinary. Her death is a terrible loss to her family, to us and to Afghanistan." Goislard started her career with UNHCR as an intern in Rwanda. After finishing her studies in Paris, she returned to Kigali as a UN Volunteer working with urban refugees, focusing on vulnerable women and children. She continued her protection work with Project Surge in Guinea before being appointed to Afghanistan, arriving in Ghazni in June 2002. Salvatore Lombardo, a colleague in Kabul, remembers, "Bettina wanted to be in Afghanistan and to be part of the recovery process. She was very fluent in the local language and was incredibly well integrated and well respected locally. She was a symbol of what UNHCR was trying to do in Afghanistan – being present in difficult circumstances, trying to intervene and speak up for the locals. She was courageous, dedicated and unrelenting." Goislard's impact went beyond Afghanistan. Her detailed reports from Ghazni – blending local knowledge and analysis – contributed to informed decisions on the asylum claims of Afghans as far away as Australia. Her attackers have been arrested and police are investigating the murder, which has been condemned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Following the shooting, High Commissioner Lubbers announced that UNHCR was suspending its activities in Ghazni province, 100 km south of the Afghan capital of Kabul. All staff members in Ghazni were confined to quarters and offices while road missions were grounded throughout the country. UNHCR officials, together with the Afghan government, are currently reviewing the agency's operations in Afghanistan. In neighbouring Pakistan, the UN refugee agency also decided to temporarily close its voluntary repatriation centres for Afghan refugees in Peshawar and Quetta until the security situation inside Afghanistan becomes clearer. This is to ensure that Afghan returnees do not arrive at UNHCR offices inside Afghanistan that may not be open. UNHCR has 782 staff members working in Afghanistan, 87 of whom are international staff. Since the start of its voluntary repatriation operation in March 2002, the agency has helped some 2.5 million Afghan refugees and some 500,000 internally displaced Afghans to return home. It also works with partner agencies to help returnees rebuild and reintegrate in their home areas. Sunday's shooting was the latest in a string of attacks on aid workers in Afghanistan. Other recent casualties include a Red Cross worker murdered in March and four people working for a Danish aid group who were killed in September.
News Update: UNHCR grounds road trips in Afghanistan following murder of staff member 17 November 2003 KABUL – The UN Refugee Agency today grounded road trips in Afghanistan and announced it will review its program to help Afghan refugees return home a day after gunmen shot and killed a staff member in the southern city of Ghazni and wounded another. The body of Bettina Goislard, a 29–year–old French national, was transported to Kabul on Sunday night from Ghazni, 100 km south of the Afghan capital. Arrangements are being made for her funeral. Two men riding on a motorcycle opened fire on a UNHCR vehicle and killed Goislard and wounded her Afghan driver during the attack Sunday in broad daylight in downtown Ghazni. Another UNHCR local staff escaped unharmed. The attackers have been arrested. Goislard is the first UN staff in Afghanistan to be murdered since UN operations resumed in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Taliban regime. Since then, UNHCR has assisted in the return of 2.5 million Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan and some 500,000 internally displaced Afghans. Following Sunday's incident, the refugee agency suspended operations in Ghazni province. All staff members were confined to quarters and offices. Road missions were grounded throughout the country as UNHCR officials, together with the Afghan government, began reviewing its operations in Afghanistan. "Whatever measures we take, we will stand by the majority of Afghans who are working with us to build peace in Afghanistan," said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's representative in Afghanistan. "But we certainly cannot allow our staff to be left at the mercy of those who are targeting us." High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has condemned the killing of Goislard as "yet another dastardly assault on an innocent humanitarian worker." Since 2000, Goislard is the fifth UNHCR staff member to be killed in the line of duty following the murders of three staff members in Indonesia and another in Guinea that year. Following assignments in Rwanda and Guinea, Goislard joined UNHCR in Afghanistn in June 2002, helping returning Afghan families restart their lives. Grandi said the staff were "deeply shocked and greatly angered" by the killing. "Her dedication to the Afghan people was truly extraordinary. Her death is a terrible loss to her family, to us and to Afghanistan," Grandi said.
Press Release: UNHCR closes repatriation centres for Afghan refugees from Pakistan 18 November 2003 Kabul – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced today the temporary suspension of its assistance to Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan, following the murder on Sunday of a staff member in the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni. "We are taking today a painful decision to temporarily reduce staff in eastern and southern provinces, withdrawing 30 international staff members from the border area," said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR's Chief of Mission for Afghanistan. "As a consequence, the reception centres in Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost and Kandahar provinces will be closed. We will review the situation after two weeks." The Agency's decision, which was explained to the Afghan government, will mostly affect returns from Pakistan. Refugee departure centres in Pakistan's Peshawar and Quetta were closed already on Monday, while the security situation was being reviewed inside Afghanistan in the aftermath of Sunday's attack. The brutal killing of Bettina Goislard in an attack that also injured one Afghan colleague came amid the worsening security situation in eastern and southern Afghanistan, especially for aid staff working in remote communities. During the past months, UNHCR and other aid agencies have been taking strict security measures while delivering aid to the returning refugees. "The work of dedicated people like Bettina, and of all those working for the government, the United Nations and NGOs is crucial for the reconstruction of Afghanistan," Grandi said. "The attack in Ghazni, however, has proven that civilian workers are exposed to the deadly threats of those who are against peace in Afghanistan." "If reconstruction of the country is to continue, governments must consider more seriously helping Afghanistan achieve security and stability," he added. "We cannot do this alone. This murder tragically proved it." Since 2002, UNHCR has assisted in the return of 3 million Afghan refugees and internally displaced people. Despite the scaling down, the Agency said that the repatriation assistance for returns from Iran will continue through the western border in Herat. Assistance to 220,000 internally displaced Afghans and other life–sustaining activities will continue with the help of Afghan staff and partner agencies. "We will ensure minimum impact of this decision on returnees, displaced people and local communities, because they don't deserve to be punished for the crimes of a few terrorists," Grandi said. "The killing of Bettina was committed by those who want to see our efforts to fail," he added. "We will stand by the majority of Afghans who have been working with us to build peace in the country." Meanwhile, funeral arrangements are being made this week for the slain UNHCR worker. The body of Bettina Goislard will be buried in Afghanistan to fulfill her will.
More than 2 million Afghans repatriated, UN refugee agency says
November 22, 2003
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - AP World News via NewsEdge Corporation : More than 2 million Afghan refugees have returned to their war-torn country since U.N.-assisted repatriation began last year, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Sunday.
The number of returning refugees since March 2002, when repatriation started, surpassed the 2.2 million mark on Friday, Maki Shinohara, a UNHCR spokeswoman, told reporters in the capital city of Kabul. This year's figure will hit 400,000 by Monday, she said.
Nearly 300,000 refugees have returned with UNHCR help from Pakistan, while 100,000 have returned without assistance, Shinohara said.
The UNHCR estimates that between 30 percent to 40 percent of refugees are gravitating to Kabul and its surrounding areas. Many Afghans are afraid to go back to their home villages because most are still under the sway of warlords with private armies.
As a result, Kabul's population has swollen to about 3 million _ more than double what it was before a U.S.-led coalition ousted the hardline Taliban militia in 2001. Most homes lack electricity and running water.
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