Swat Valley Refugees Head HomeJuly 14, 2009 - 10:40 AM | by: Scott Heidler
Islamabad, Pakistan — It’s day two of the long road ahead for the two million internal Pakistani refugees who fled the Swat Valley as this country’s security forces battle Taliban militants.
The fighting lasted about two months, and many of those in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the country’s northwest are worried for their security despite the government’s assurance that it’s safe to go back.
Repatriation into the Malakand division, the greater Swat Valley area, is not being forced by the military nor the government here. So hundreds are opting to stay in the camps for two reasons. They don’t want to go back until they know the Taliban are completely gone from their villages and they want the compensation guaranteed by the Pakistan government, about $310 for each family. Just over 10% of the returnees the government planned for Monday boarded the buses for Swat.
It has been a rough few months for the refugees in the camps. Their villages in the former tourist area in the Swat Valley are much higher and cooler than the dusty plains of their temporary IDP camp homes near the city of Mardan. But they only represent about 10% of all the people who have fled the fighting.
The vast majority of the two million refugees have been living with relatives or with “host” families. It is this group of refugees who are going to face a much tougher road ahead since there is no announced plan of returning people outside of the camps and because they are not registered at the camps its going to be much more difficult for them to get assistance.
Pakistan officials are planning for the process to take about 40 days, but many refugee experts are estimating that it could take months.