UNITED NATIONS, June 30 (APP): The United Nations Thursday thanked Pakistan for extending by further six months till December 31, 2016, the stay of registered Afghan refugees residing in the country, but said their repatriation to Afghanistan should be governed by international laws.

“We are thankful to the government and people of Pakistan for their generosity in hosting the Afghan refugees for such a long time,” UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarris said in reply to a question at the regular noon briefing.

Pakistan has the world’s second largest refugee population, with more than 1.5 million registered, and about a million unregistered, refugees from Afghanistan, most of whom fled the Soviet occupation of their country in the 1980s.

The number of Afghans voluntarily returning home has plunged this year as violence worsens in Afghanistan, where the government and its U.S. allies are fighting a tough Taliban insurgency.

The spokesman said that refugees cannot be forced to return to their homeland under the international humanitarian laws, and that Afghan refugees should be repatriated in safety and with dignity.

At a recent UN event, Pakistani Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi urged the international community to prioritize the issue of Afghan refugees and help Pakistan and Afghanistan in their repatriation and resettlement in an honourable and sustainable manner.

In this regard, the Pakistani envoy also called on the global community to better appreciate Pakistan’s hospitality and its challenges in hosting the most protracted presence of refugees anywhere in the world.