Pakistan to engage UNHCR, Afghan Govt for early return of Afghan refugees

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OGDCL providing free healthcare services in its all operational areas

ISLAMABAD, June 30 (APP): The government on Thursday decided to engage the Afghan government and UNHCR immediately to devise concrete steps to ensure early sustained returns of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

The decision to this effect was taken at a high level meeting, co-chaired by Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch.

It was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deliberate upon the way forward and formulate the modalities for effective implementation of repatriation and management of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

The meeting was held in pursuance of the Prime Minister’s directive of June 28, 2016 with respect to six-month extension accorded for the stay of registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would approach the Government of Afghanistan bilaterally on the political and diplomatic level whereas the Ministry of SAFRON will engage UNHCR and Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (MoRR) Afghanistan to pursue and devise modalities for implementation of early returns as well as the possibility of shifting Afghan refugees gradually from Pakistan to safer and peaceful areas of Afghanistan where the Afghan Government should establish settlements,” said a Foreign Office statement.

Keeping in view the current political, socio-economic and security scenario, the meeting recognized the need for early return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with honour and in dignity. However, emphasis remained on sustainable repatriation wherein all out efforts are required to help returnees reintegrate in Afghanistan.

The meeting recognized the importance of the forthcoming Tripartite Commission meeting on repatriation of Afghan refugees to be held on July 19, 2016 in Pakistan where the Government of Pakistan would formally discuss this matter in detail with the Afghan Minister of MoRR and UNHCR.

The meeting welcomed the announcement of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees during his recent visit to Pakistan regarding enhancing the repatriation grant from US$ 200 to US$ 400 per individual for registered Afghan returnees.

The meeting observed that the enhancement would incentivize returns and help anchor returnees in Afghanistan. However, it was felt that this incentive had to be complemented by access to land, infrastructural development and provision of basic amenities like health, education and water facilities along with livelihood opportunities by the Afghan Government to sustain returns and reintegration in Afghanistan.

It was reiterated that a stable, prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan was in the best interest of Pakistan and therefore Pakistan would continue to support Afghanistan in its pursuit of peace as well as reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.

In this respect as a gesture of goodwill on the directive of the Prime Minister, the Pakistan’s government would offer free wheat to Afghan returnees in the newly established settlements inside Afghanistan for a period of three years.

The meeting emphasized the importance and need for the international community to support the Afghan government in its endeavors for reintegration of the displaced population through robust development interventions particularly in the potential areas of return.

The donors must ensure that refugees and IDPs were an integral part of the overall Afghanistan’s National Development Strategies and Plans.

It was emphasized that the governments of Pakistan Afghanistan through political and diplomatic channels must pursue these objectives with the donors. The upcoming conferences in New York and Brussels would provide the appropriate platforms to highlight the protracted Afghan refugees issue and the need for its resolution.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee chaired by Secretary SAFRON was directed to formulate a realistic action plan in light of the Prime Minister’s directive of June 28, 2016.

The plan would be finalized in close coordination with Federal and Provincial Governments and other stakeholders, as well as, where required, in consultation with UNHCR and MoRR Afghanistan to ensure effective implementation. This Committee will also oversee and monitor the repatriation process regularly and report on monthly basis.