Pakistan and Afghan Refugees : A tale of four decades     

Pakistan and Afghan Refugees : A tale of four decades     

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all of these refugees and the aid continued for some years but for two decades the international community had withdrawn its support, he added.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