ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will present its strategy to deal with the nearly three million Afghan refugees still living in the country in a tripartite meeting in Kabul, officials said on Friday.
Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt- Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch has arrived in Kabul to represent Pakistan in the meeting with the Afghan government and the UN refugee agency, officials of Pakistan’s embassy in the Afghan capital told The Express Tribune.
Pakistan is hosting almost 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees according to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), making it the largest protracted refugee situation in the world.
The ‘proof of registration’ (PoR) cards issued to the refugees are set to expire by the end of this year. Kabul has requested Islamabad to extend the refugees’ stay until it develops the capacity to accommodate them in Afghanistan. Whether Pakistan should extend their stay beyond 2015 will be the most important item on the meeting’s agenda.
Pakistan also hosts around one million un-registered Afghans, the documentation process for whom was scheduled to begin last month. It was postponed for a month on the Afghan government’s request, an Afghan diplomat said, and will likely begin next week.
The SAFRON ministry has been devising what officials say is a comprehensive policy for Afghan refugees in coordination with the government of Pakistan and UNHCR. During the last tripartite meeting in Islamabad in March, the SAFRON minister had said that Pakistan’s new policy “will be humane, based on the ground realities, for achieving solutions which are sustainable through voluntary repatriation and leads to empowerment rather than exploitation.”
In the Islamabad meeting, Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR had agreed to jointly develop mutually reinforcing plans for phased voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland and for their management in Pakistan in line with the absorption capacity in Afghanistan and the realities on the ground.
The three sides reached an understanding on introducing an Enhanced Voluntary Return and Reintegration Package (EVRRP) programme to stimulate voluntary repatriation and support sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees.
They had also agreed to undertake joint fundraising initiatives for the implementation of the EVRRP.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2015.