Accord reached on assisting refugees’ voluntary return
KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of voluntary repatriation with safety and dignity.
At the 25th Tripartite Commission meeting in Islamabad, the parties agreed that intensified efforts were required to create an enabling environment for the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returnees in Afghanistan.
All the parties agreed that, while the full and effective reintegration will be a gradual and challenging endeavour, linked to Afghanistan’s absorption capacity, concrete measures can be taken to support this process, including by empowering returnees at an individual level by strengthening their self-reliance and coping mechanisms upon return.
To support this objective, the parties agreed to complement the current return cash grant of an average of $1,200 per family of 6, provided to returnees under the auspices of UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme, with the inclusion of an additional multi-purpose long-term reintegration component through the introduction of an Enhanced Voluntary Return and Reintegration Package (EVRRP) for a pilot period of one year.
Lt. Gen. (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Pakistan’s Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), welcomed the endorsement of the EVRRP and stated that Pakistan is dealing with one of the most protracted human displacement situations of our time which calls for a collective response from the international community.
The parties, therefore, committed to undertake in joint fundraising initiatives, led by the government of Afghanistan, supported by the government of Pakistan and facilitated by UNHCR to ensure resource mobilization for the implementation of the EVRRP.
Baloch agreed that repatriation must be sustainable and based on the realistic assessment of the situation on the ground. He informed the forum that his ministry is devising a comprehensive policy for Afghan refugees in coordination and consultation with Pakistan and UNHCR to be ready by mid this year.
The new policy according to Baloch “will be humane, based on the ground realities, for achieving solutions which are sustainable through voluntary repatriation and leads to empowerment rather than exploitation.”
Afghan Minster for Refugees and Repatriation, Sayed Hossein Alimi Balkhi, paid gratitude to the people of Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees and economic migrants for over three decades despite the associated economic challenges and lack of resources.
Balkhi told the forum that, the Afghanistan has taken important steps to resolving the longstanding Afghan refugee issue, including bilateral discussions on the subject with Pakistan, plans to establish a National Migration Management Board and efforts to develop a comprehensive national strategy for voluntary repatriation.
Balkhi said that humanitarian assistance alone could not fully address the pressing development needs of returning refugees. “There is a need for collective efforts, backed by the international community, for the national programmes that have the potential to address the urgent needs of returnees in Afghanistan.”
UNHCR’s representatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Maya Ameratunga and Indrika Ratwattte emphasised that given the positive geo-political developments, 2015 was a pivotal year that presented a unique opportunity for the pursuit of lasting solutions to the problem of refugees.
They noted the process of developing vibrant communities, livelihood opportunities and a conducive, sustainable return environment was linked to improvements in the socio-economic situation in Afghanistan.
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