Afghan refugees are not terrorists, UNHCR tells Pakistanis
KABUL (Pajhwok): The UN refugee agency head on Thursday urged Pakistanis not to blame Afghan refugees for terrorism in their country, warning that the roughly 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan risked becoming a “forgotten” crisis.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi, who visited a repatriation centre outside Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, called on the international community to invest more funds to help the refugees.
“My appeal is that, not only to the authorities but also to the local population: refugees as you know are not terrorists,” Grandi said.
Pakistani officials have recently hinted at the possibility of deporting Afghan refugees, amid tense relations with Kabul.
A decision to renew their legal status by June 30 has not yet been announced, although past deadlines have been extended at the last minute.
So far, about 6,000 Afghans have chosen to return home from Pakistan in 2016, compared with 58,211 voluntary repatriations last year, according to the UNHCR.
Police in Peshawar have increased raids on Afghan refugees and have so far detained hundreds of them, amid worsening diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Monday, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz told a television channel that Afghan refugee camps had become “safe havens for terrorists.”
On Wednesday, Pakistani federal minister Abdul Qadir Baloch warned that Pakistan was not willing to host Afghan refugees indefinitely.
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