UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters today in Geneva that the final 148 residents left Shalman on Sunday to return to Afghanistan. A separate group of 433 people was transferred Friday to another camp at Kotkai.Returning refugees are given food, a small travel grant and some supplies by UNHCR to help them re-adjust to life in Afghanistan.Mr. Janowski said the agency chose to first close Shalman – which lies in a dry valley near the famous Khyber Pass – because of its harsh and isolated conditions and its falling population. At its peak, Shalman had capacity for 26,000 refugees.UNHCR hopes to announce more camp closures in the next few months after holding talks with government officials in the provinces of North West Frontier and Balochistan, Mr. Janowski said. The agency set up 15 camps in the region to shelter Afghans who fled fighting in their homeland following the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.Some 400,000 Afghans are expected to return home this year from Pakistan, while 33,500 people have already returned from Iran since the start of the year. In 2002 and 2003 about 1.9 million Afghans are estimated to have returned from Pakistan.

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