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40th Year of Afghan Refugees Displacement; Pak Extends Their Stay For Another Year

Accord signed on dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees

PKONWEB — Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have unanimously agreed on a joint 12-point declaration aimed at “safe and honorable” repatriation of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for the past four decades.

In a declaration issued at the end of the three parties’ meeting in Islamabad, they expressed their commitment to extend the existing Tripartite Agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of Afghan citizens living in Pakistan.

In the meantime, a member of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity that the government had, in principle, decided to extend the stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan until June 2020.

He said Khan would formally announce the decision during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s upcoming visit to Islamabad.

Minister of State for States and Frontier Regions Shehryar Afridi told media Pakistan never compromised over the issues of Afghan refugees despite financial constraints.

Addressing the press conference on quadrilateral commission meeting in Islamabad on Monday, he said giving respect to the Afghan refugees is the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

“UNHCR played a key role in facilitating this dialogue. Premier Imran Khan also has taken steps to facilitate the Afghan refugees and under the same spirit 1.4 million Afghan refugees are allowed to open bank accounts,” he added.

Lauding the positive role played Afghan Refugees Minister Balkhi, Mr Afridi said that 68 per cent of Afghan refugees were already integrated with the mainstream Pakistani population, while 32pc were living in camps.

He said that it was unfortunate to note that 85pc refugees worldwide were being looked after by developing countries, including Pakistan. He said the developed world should come forward and play its role according to its international commitments and UN conventions.

Earlier this week, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the UNHCR urged the international community to support countries hosting millions of refugees

The demand came during the Sixth Quadripartite Steering Committee Meeting in Islamabad, where they discussed the issue of repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran.

The committee called for joint efforts to create an environment conducive to a phased, orderly and voluntary return of refugees, as well as their reintegration into Afghanistan and better support for host communities in Iran and Pakistan, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

The UNHCR also praised Pakistan and Iran for hosting Afghan refugees and said it would help communities hosting refugees in their countries.

The legal stay of 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan would end June 30 under the current plan.