UNHCR welcomes Pakistan’s decision to extend stay of Afghan refugees

Peshawar: The UN refugee agency today welcomed the Government of Pakistan’s six month extension for Afghan refugees beyond 31 December 2012.

The extension signals Pakistan’s continued commitment to regional stability, as well as to the ongoing voluntary repatriation of refugees to Afghanistan in dignity, safety and with honour.

The Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, alongside UNHCR, recently reaffirmed their cooperation in the efforts to find durable solutions for Afghan refugees during the 22nd Tripartite Commission Meeting held in Lahore on 78 December.

The Government of Pakistan expressed its appreciation for UNHCR’s efforts and success in implementing a “surge” in voluntary repatriation since October 2012, and noted the 40% increase in returns compared with 2011.

The Government of Pakistan has also drawn attention to the considerable value of the data provided by the Population Profiling Verification and Response PPVR survey, recognizing its utility in facilitating voluntary repatriation and supporting host communities.

The Government of Pakistan is committed to the implementation of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees SSAR between 2012 and 2014.

That strategy includes a second phase of the refugee affected and hosting areas RAHA initiative that requires projects worth USD 495 million to be implemented in Pakistan assisting communities that have hosted refugees. These projects focus on infrastructure development, water and sanitation, health, education, environment and livelihoods in the Provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and the FATA.

The Representative of UNHCR in Pakistan, Neill Wright, said “while the six month extension is important, Afghan refugees will be left wondering what the future has in store in July 2013 and beyond.

UNHCR will therefore continue to encourage the Government to maintain asylum space in the challenging transitional period ahead.” He added “UNHCR acknowledges and appreciates the Government of Pakistan’s enduring support for Afghan refugees, and pledges its continued commitment to support the Government of Pakistan in finding lasting solutions for
Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

The Government of Pakistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency will continue to seek international support and burden sharing for the extended stay of Afghan refugees, as well as the implementation of the SSAR”.