ISLAMABAD: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) unveiled a new strategy on Sunday, in order to help Pakistan repatriate 150,000 Afghan refugees during the current year.
Four Voluntary Repatriation Centres (VRCs), which will remain operational throughout the year, have already been established in this regard to help expedite the whole process, said UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Neil Wright.
Wright also called for further assistance to the host countries, commending Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan for their initiatives, adding that the joint efforts will go a long way in resolving the long-standing predicament.
Ministry of states and Frontier Regions (Safron) and the UNHCR plan to implement a new strategy, aimed at supporting repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
“The new strategy contains measures aimed at supporting refugees, and is tailored towards the specific needs of each of the three countries involved,” he said.
“In Pakistan, the focus is geared more towards voluntary repatriation, in addition to helping the host communities,” he remarked.
“At a time when countries are closing their doors upon those who are fleeing persecution, the generosity of the people and the government of Pakistan towards Afghan refugees deserves greater recognition,” he pointed out.
The strategy also seeks the commitment of the international community to support host countries.
The measures aim to preserve asylum space for the Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries, over the next three years, in addition to supporting sustainable reintegration for those who return home.
The process will be entirely voluntary and every refugee who opts to return will be helped by the UNHCR to formulate a well informed decision.
Afghan refugees remain sceptical of a swift return, as the security situation in Afghanistan is not at all favourable.
The final decision is based on weeks of deliberation, while an extensive network of friends and family apprise the refugees of the security situation on ground.
Afghan refugees constitute the largest and the longest-standing refugee situation in UNHCR’s history.
In the year 2011 alone, around 70,000 Afghan refugees returned home.
There still exist around 1.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, while another one million are undocumented for.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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