Mass movement: ‘Afghan refugees may take longer to repatriate’

Minister says process has to be completed despite hurdles.


Riazul Haq December 07, 2012

ISLAMABAD:


Afghan refugees’ stay in Pakistan is likely to exceed the deadline, hinted Minister for States and Frontier Regions of Pakistan (SAFRON) Engineer Shaukatullah Khan.


Pakistan had earlier given the refugees a deadline to leave the country by the end of December.

While briefing the media at the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees in the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad on Thursday, the minster said that he had spoken to the Afghan president, who was very hopeful about the refugees’ return to Afghanistan.

“He showed commitment to the request of Pakistan in helping the refugees go back to their country and take part in its development,” he said.

The minister said that although there are many hurdles which might hamper the repatriation, the process had to be undertaken.

71,841

“Over 3 million refugees is equal to the population of a country. We must assist them to repatriate to their own country,” he remarked.

He added that the government was trying to voluntarily repatriate 1.6 million refugees and he would meet with the prime minister to discuss the matter.

The minister is also likely to hold a tripartite meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR on Saturday in Lahore.

Present on the occasion, the UNHCR Representative Neill Wright noted that since 2002, UNHCR Pakistan has facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 3.8 million refugees.

“In 2012 alone, the UNHCR has repatriated 71,841 people to Afghanistan,” he said.

Wright added that over 1,807 families comprising 9,793 individuals have been repatriated since the beginning of the voluntary repatriation in October 23, 2012, which is more than double the figure during 2011.

The representative also said that they had received over a 1,000 applications from those who wished to apply to other countries under a resettlement programme.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2012. 

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