Continued presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan not viable option: Sartaj Aziz

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ISLAMABAD, Jun 21 (APP): Advisor to the Prime Minister
on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday emphasized that repatriation of all Afghan refugees was a priority.

He noted that, for over three decades, Pakistan has
shown exemplary goodwill and generosity by hosting millions of Afghan refugees.

The Advisor expressed these views during his meeting
here with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who is visiting Pakistan from June 21 to 24, a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Sartaj Aziz said, however, given the immense socio
economic, development and environmental challenges, continued presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan was not a viable option.
The security dimension added to the challenges. It also
necessitated more effective border management, he added.

The Advisor on Foreign Affairs said political transition
in Afghanistan two years ago provided an opportunity for the refugees to return to their homeland and be part of the national rebuilding process in Afghanistan.

During the meeting, it was considered that repatriation
of refugees would contribute to the stability and development of Afghanistan and the region.

It was noted that the pace of repatriation was extremely
slow, attributed to the perennial shortage of resources, absence of an effective reintegration plan, and lack of international attention and support among other factors.

The need for a time bound plan for repatriation was
underscored by the Adviser.

Both sides agreed that addressing the current crises
elsewhere should not divert attention and funding from the Afghan refugee situation.

It was underlined that Pakistan’s future policy and
decisions would depend on the corresponding actions and plans of the Afghan Government, UNHCR and international donors.

Several steps such as expedited returns, concrete
international funding and incentives for returnees were required to ensure success in this collective endeavor in which all stakeholders must shoulder their responsibilities.

The High Commissioner commended Pakistan’s historic
contribution and hospitality in hosting the Afghan refugees for 37 years and evinced strong desire to work together to promote a solution to this protracted refugee caseload.

He shared UNHCR’s efforts and plans to mobilize
international attention, support and funding for the management and return of Afghan refugees.

The Adviser assured the High Commissioner of Pakistan’s
support and cooperation.

This is Mr. Grandi’s first visit to Pakistan after
assuming office of the High Commissioner. He visited Iran and Afghanistan before arriving in Pakistan.

The objective of the visit, coinciding with the World
Refugee Day, is to show solidarity with the refugees and the host countries, and to exchange views on addressing the Afghan refugee situation.