Afghan refugees: As deadline lingers, govt clueless over repatriation strategy

UNHCR spokesperson says tripartite meeting to be held on December 7, 8.

Asad Zia December 05, 2012

PESHAWAR: As the deadline for the repatriation of Afghan refugees nears, the government does not appear to have a clear strategy to deal with the mass exodus.

Pakistan had earlier announced December 31 as the last date to repatriate all individuals who fled Afghanistan to escape fighting between local warlords and foreign forces. However, little headway has been made on how exactly the government intends to send the hundreds of thousands of people back to their homeland by the end of the year.

Currently, there are around 1.56 million registered Afghan refugees in the country, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan, Dunya Aslam Khan, told The Express Tribune.

She, however, admits the exact number of unregistered refugees is difficult to state.

According to Dunya, around one million Afghan refugees are presently living in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). In the past few years, nearly seven million have willingly returned to their homeland, she added.

Dunya added that a tripartite meeting of the UNHCR will be held on December 7 and 8 in Lahore, where Pakistan and Afghanistan will decide on the next deadline for repatriating Afghans. She said that State and Frontier Regions (Safron) Minister Shaukatullah has also visited Afghanistan to negotiate with the government and see if the environment is conducive to send the families back.


An official of the Home and Tribal Affairs Department maintained that there are only 0.6 million refugees living in different camps and rented houses in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Of these, 0.265 million are registered while the others are residing illegally.

Nowshera DCO Ghulam Muhammad Khan said he had not yet received any information about a deadline or steps taken for the repatriation drive.

“We can only take further action once the provincial or federal government takes a decision,” said Khan.

The UNHCR spokesperson said the voluntary repatriation trend this year suggests a 34% increase in the number of refugees returning to their homeland as compared to 2011.

So far this year, a total of over 62,500 individuals have returned, while the UNHCR has assisted more than 3.7 million refugees in Pakistan to return since 2002, in what Dunya dubbed the world’s largest voluntary repatriation movement.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2012.



Sterry | 8 years ago | Reply

@Someone else: Trust me; most Pakistanis would be relieved to see these Afghanis return to Afghanistan but the problem is that despite all the challenges in Pakistan, it is still better off than Afghanistan and most Muslim countries. The reason Pakistan has to send these refugees back is that Pakistan should focus on improving the lives of its own peoples by providing jobs and education to all - not worry about helping all the neighbouring muslim countries in the region. These Afghanis are also loyal to India which is their master and controls them. Most Afghanis want to go to western countries where they can get asylum and live on state assistance but Pakistan does not have these type of resources. You see so many Afghanis in Europe, Australia and North America who live on welfare there because they don't work but Pakistan cannot afford this type of burden.

Someone else | 8 years ago | Reply

Seems like they're leaving the first opportunity they get. Afghans love their country and have absolutely no need to remain in Pakistan whatsoever. They are more than happy to leave. 3.7 million have left on their own, 62,000 over the last month. This is during your militant Taliban insurgency. Leave them alone and stop in acting violence in that war torn land and they'll all leave.

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