Support sought for closing Afghan refugee chapter
KABUL (Pajhwok): The international community has been urged to support efforts for bringing Afghanistan’s protracted refugee chapter to a close and putting an end to future displacement within and beyond the country.
Representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)on Tuesday underlined their commitment to empower Afghan refugees and to pro-actively work towards their voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration.
All parties reaffirmed their commitment to the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) which remains the regional framework for implementing lasting solutions for the 1.5 million registered refugees in Pakistan.
On Tuesday, the UNCR hosted the Tripartite Commission meeting in Murree, attended by Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON)Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister of Refugees Sayed Hossein Alimi Balkhi, UNHCR’s Representatives Indrika Ratwatte and Ms. Maya Ameratunga.
The parties signed the extension of the existing Tripartite Agreement till December 31, 2016 between the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR. The accord governs voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity.
Under the arrangement, more than 3.9 million Afghan refugees have gone back to Afghanistan since 2001, according to a statement from UNHCR.
The representatives reiterated their commitment for joint advocacy and resource mobilisation to support the implementation of the SSAR and plans on voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees.
Ratwatte welcomed Pakistan’s decision to extend the validity of the Proof of Registration cards until December 31, praising the country’s generosity for hosting millions of Afghan refugees on its soil.
However, he stressed the need for robust support of the development actors in ensuring the sustainability of voluntary returns in Afghanistan and in providing tangible support to host communities in Pakistan, pending return.
“Empowering refugee youth through education, skills training and livelihoods support, is imperative for sustainable reintegration and for prosperity and stability in Afghanistan and the region,” Ratwatte said.
Baloch reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to continue working closely with Afghanistan and UNHCR to ensure sustainable voluntary returns in safety and dignity, as evidenced by the recent constitution of an Inter-Ministerial Committee, tasked with devising a voluntary repatriation plan.
He asked Afghanistan to work on immediate, concrete and tangible plans for receiving and reintegrating Afghan returnees in view of the implementation of the enhanced voluntary repatriation and reintegration grant.
Balkhi underlined reinvigorated efforts to create an environment conducive for voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, including improved access to basic services and livelihood opportunities, and land tenure reform.
He noted that a detailed action plan will be finalised by early September. “We pay gratitude to the Government and people of Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees and economic migrants for more than three decades amidst economic challenges and significant strain on the infrastructure and resources.”
UNHCR Representative in Afghanistan Ms. Maya Ameratunga said collective efforts backed by the international community for reintegration programmes would be critical to meet the needs of returnees in Afghanistan.
“At a time when the global spotlight is on Afghan population movements to Europe, it is vital to recognize that the largest population of Afghan refugees, returnees and displaced persons in need, are right here in our midst. Now more than ever, Afghanistan and the sub-region need the support of the international community,” said Ms. Ameratunga.
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