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UNHCR to continue supporting Afghan refugees' repatriation

10 December, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have reaffirmed their commitment that voluntary and dignified repatriation is the best solution to end protracted Afghan refugee situation in Pakistan.

During the 22nd Tripartite Commission meeting, the parties agreed that all efforts should be undertaken to expedite the voluntary repatriation of refugees in a sustainable manner and to intensify efforts for durable reintegration in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani delegation was headed by the Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Engineer Shaukatullah. The Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Affairs (MoRR), Dr Jamahir Anwary, led the Afghan delegation while UNHCR representatives n Pakistan and Afghanistan headed the UN refugee agency teams.

The participants of the Tripartite Commission meeting supported and emphasised the proposal to enhance assistance for voluntarily returns from $150 to $200. Shaukatullah informed the delegates that the government of Pakistan will soon announce its new policy on the management and repatriation of Afghan refugees, which is currently awaiting the approval of the prime minister and the cabinet.

Afghan Minister, Dr Anwary said, "The government of Afghanistan supports the dignified and voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, and recognises the need to increase efforts to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan."

However, he noted that in view of ground realities in Afghanistan, not all the Afghans in Pakistan will be able to return in the near future.

Both SAFRON and MoRR noted that the early progress on implementation of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), endorsed in Geneva in May this year, required urgent enhancement through the funding of development programmes in both countries, particularly in relation to the expansion of reintegration assistance in high return areas in Afghanistan to support additional returnees.

Speaking on the occasion, UNHCR's representative, Neill Wright said, "Efforts should be made to ensure that the Afghan refugee issue is not politicised,"

There are 1.66 million registered Afghans currently living in Pakistan. This year, nearly 83,000 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR facilitated voluntary return programme from Pakistan and Iran.

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