Donor nations back Afghan refugees’ repatriation

SAFRON minister says Pakistan world's only country to integrate refugees with mainstream society

Our Correspondent July 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Donor countries and agencies have vowed full support for honorable and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees, lauding Pakistan's “generous hosting” of millions of Afghan refugees over the past 40 years.

The Embassy of United States of America hosted a meeting of Friends of Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees (FOSSAR) on Friday, which was largely attended by diplomats, country heads and representatives of 36 donor agencies and countries.

Minister for Safron and Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi co-chaired the meeting with US Ambassador Paul Jones. Safron Secretary Mohammad Aslam, Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees Salim Iqbal and other officials were in attendance.

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Addressing the participants, Afridi said, “Pakistan is perhaps the only country across the world that has integrated refugees with the mainstream society as per the UN recommendations.

"We are taking steps to ensure redressal of issues faced by Afghan refugees in camps. Despite being an under-developed country, Pakistan has been hosting millions of refugees for 40 years. Despite suffering heavily due to drugs and weaponisation, Pakistan has never closed its doors to Afghan refugees. On the other hand, the national security of the developed nations is threatened with the arrival of a single boat of refugees on their shores."

Afridi said that peace in Afghanistan was linked with regional and global peace, adding that 85% of the refugees worldwide were being hosted by third world countries.

"Developed nations have to come forward and fulfill their duty towards humanity. Honorable and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees is linked to peace in Afghanistan and world support for Afghanistan. Refugees are suffering and we need to support them," he said.

On the vision of the new government, Afridi said, “Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision is that Pakistan will go an extra mile to ensure dignity and respect of the Afghan refugees and we will not compromise on their self-respect and self-esteem.”

He said the prime minister had allowed 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees to open bank accounts and have access to banking channels, which would greatly facilitate their temporary stay and businesses, till their voluntary return.

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"Mother and childcare are major issues for refugees living in camps and the donors should also help the UNHCR in this regard. We will ensure presence of UNHCR representatives in all refugee camps to help facilitate the refugees. Pakistan is generously hosting Afghan refugees and we welcome world support through UNHCR. A lot needs to be added to the refugee portfolio," he added.

"There is a need to register an additional 500,000 Afghan refugees who are aliens in Pakistan. In our humble capacity, Pakistan is hosting the refugees despite a financial crunch. With meagre financial resources, we have been hosting Afghans generously for the past 40 years and we will keep doing so. But the world needs to play its part to avoid any humanitarian crisis," he added.

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