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Pakistan-Afghanistan to hold talks on Afghan refugees

06 November, 2018

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Pakistan and Afghanistan will hold talks on the fate of the Afghan refugees in Islamabad on Tuesday (today), officials and diplomats said on Monday.

Pakistan still hosts some 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees who hold the proof of registration (PoR) cards, according the UN refugee agency. The government has extended their stay until June 30, 2019.

Besides the PoRcard holders, around 880,000 more were documented earlier this year who hold the Afghan Citizen Cards (ACC). Several thousand undocumented refugees are also living in Pakistan, according to Afghan diplomats.

The discussions will focus on the future of all the three categories of refugees, a diplomatic source told Daily Times. The talks will be held under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) – a joint action plan for cooperation in the key areas of counter-terrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation and joint economic development. Both countries have established a joint working group under the APAPPS.

This will be the second meeting of the refugees’ working group. The first was held in Kabul.

“These are preliminary meetings. Both sides will hold general discussions as there will be nothing specific at this stage,” an official told Daily Times.

The Afghan delegation will be headed by Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation Dr Alema.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are holding talks after Prime Minister Imran Khan offered to grant Pakistani citizenship to the Afghans born in Pakistan. However, Afghan officials have disagreed with Khan’s idea and insist that Afghans want return to their homeland.

“Our preference for Afghan refugees is to return to Afghanistan. The desire within the Afghan refugees is to return to their own country,” Afghanistan outgoing ambassador Omar Zakhilwal had said in an interview last month. “Some of them have already returned, while the rest are worried about the security environment. So, a better situation for them is peace and stability in their country … so we do not need to push them to return, they will on their own,” Zakhilwal said, when asked will Kabul allow those Afghans who want to stay in Pakistan. He said those Afghans who have got Pakistani citizenship will also return when peace is returned to their country.

UNHCR Country Representative in Pakistan, Ruvendrini Menikdiwela says the UNHCR will continue to call for international support to Pakistani host communities and the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

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