ISLAMABAD: As the UN refugee agency announced it would overhaul its strategy to help Afghan refugees return to their home country, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that Pakistan wanted their return with honour and called upon the international community for assistance.
Talking to UN High Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Antonio Guterres at the PM House, the prime minister said: “It seems like the international community has forgotten the Afghan refugees.”
Gilani emphasised that the return of the Afghan refugees was important because the crossing of borders by 30,000 to 40,000 Afghans on a daily basis has made it impossible to distinguish between a “tourist and a terrorist”.
The UN high commissioner said that they were reaching out to the international community to undertake heavy investment in 48 identified areas within Afghanistan which would encourage the Afghan refugees to return to their country on a permanent basis because it would provide them with attractive job opportunities.
UN overhauls Afghan refugee strategy
UNHCR head Guterres told AFP that 10 years after the US-led invasion and with 5.7 million refugees having returned since 2002, the United Nations no longer wants to restrict its aid to individuals who return.
Instead it will invest in communities, health and education in order to create more attractive conditions for return, and support host communities in Iran and Pakistan to preserve asylum space and ease the sharing of resources.
Afghans were not only leaving for neighbouring countries “but everywhere in the world” and in Europe “we are particularly worried with the rising number of unaccompanied minors”.
Appreciation for Pakistan
“At a time when many countries are closing their doors to those fleeing violence and persecution, the generosity of the people and the government of Pakistan towards Afghan refugees deserves greater recognition,” he said.
During his visit, Guterres also met with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and discussed the agreement reached in Dubai earlier this week among Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and UNHCR to pursue a regional strategy aimed at finding durable solutions to the Afghan refugee situation. afp
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2012.