High Commissioner in Pakistan
The High Commissioner arrived in Islamabad on Thursday at the start of an eight-day trip to look into the situation of Afghan refugees and returnees in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Today, she was scheduled to meet with Pakistan's president, Mohammad Rafiq Tarar, and the chief executive officer, General Pervez Musharraf. She will visit camps in Balochistan province tomorrow and then will proceed to Herat in Afghanistan on Sunday.
The 2.6 million Afghans in Pakistan (1.2 million) and Iran (1.4 million) comprise the world's largest refugee group. It is also one of the longest and most protracted caseloads, as Mrs. Ogata made clear in a speech last night in Islamabad in which she noted that after 20 years and a massive repatriation effort, the Afghan refugee situation still defies a solution. She also noted that although Pakistan and Iran bear the brunt of this refugee crisis, the problem also reverberates outside the region: Afghans have now become the third largest group of asylum seekers in Europe. Mrs. Ogata hopes to focus international attention on the plight of these refugees in the midst of the worst drought in 30 years in the region and to generate support for UNHCR's programme.