Pakistan wants voluntary return of Afghan refugees: Abdul Qadir

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Pakistan wants voluntary return of Afghan refugees: Abdul Qadir

ISLAMABAD, June 22 (APP): Federal Minister for State and
Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch Wednesday said Pakistan wanted
voluntary and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their country.

Speaking at a high level panel discussion on “New Approaches
to Protracted Refugee Situation and Equitable Responsibility Sharing” here, he urged the international community to share more of the refugee burden.

He said at the start of the conflict in Afghanistan in 1979,
Pakistan was hosting five million Afghan refugees.

International community was supporting all of these refugees
and the aid continued for some years but for two decades the international community had withdrawn its support, he added.

Now the donors were spending half a dollar for education of
each refugee and one dollar for his health, he said adding three million refugees were still in Pakistan and using the country’s services and many were in jobs available in the economy.

The minister said Pakistan as a neighbour had made its
contribution in meeting needs of Afghan refugees.

He said the international community was spending much more on
Syrian refugees than the Afghan refugees.

Abdul Qadir said the international community has realised that
30 percent of Afghan refugees were now heading towards Europe.
High Commissioner United Nations High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR) Filippo Grandi underlined the need for a renewed focus on repatriation of Afghan refugees to country of their origin.

He said ways should be found for a permanent solution to the
problem.

Peace could not be established in a conflict without resolving
the issue of displacement of people, he added.

He said displacement of people should be tackled with
development tools and not just by humanitarian relief.

All parties should work together and the process of
development should start from the very beginning of the refugee problem.

“Local host communities get affected as the flow of refugees
begins.”

In protracted situations, Grandi said refugees need more
access to services and resources.

Secretary Ministry of Frontier Regions Shehzad Arbab said
Pakistan has invested in Afghan refugees for 37 years.
“We want to resolve this issue with honourable return of
Afghan refugees.”

He said that there were issues with the Afghan government but
not with the refugees who have lived peacefully in the host communities except some incidents.

He asked UNHCR and donor agencies to play their role in
repatriation of Afghan refugees.

The Afghan government has to make this issue part of their
development agenda, he added.

Leader of Awami National Party Afrasiab Khattak said Afghan
refugees were caught for long in war among groups.

He said all over the world, the issue of refugees was resolved
through bilateral and multilateral forums.

He said situation for refugees got bad whenever conditions
aggravated in the border areas along Pakistan.