UN High Commissioner for Refugees visits Afghanistan on World Refugee Day, urges continued international support
KABUL 20 June 2016 – Visiting Afghanistan on World Refugee Day, UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi urged the international community to redouble efforts to find lasting solutions to Afghanistan’s complex and rapidly evolving displacement crisis. “This is a problem we cannot ignore,” stated Grandi, adding that “despite growing insecurity and other challenges, there are opportunities to provide lasting solutions for the growing numbers of internally displaced families and pave the way for the eventual voluntary return of refugees remaining in neighbouring countries. Afghans everywhere are counting on us.” He stressed UNHCR’s continued commitment to the 2.4 million remaining Afghan refugees in the region, as well as his agency’s intention to renew efforts to find durable solutions for the country’s estimated 1.2 million internally displaced people in partnership with the Government of National Unity and humanitarian and development agencies.
Noting that Afghanistan remains the second-largest refugee-producing country in the world, High Commissioner Grandi called for international respect of the principles of refugee protection and for increased international solidarity towards people fleeing conflict, insecurity, and persecution: “Today, Afghanistan sees record-high civilian casualties, unprecedented levels of internal displacement, and increasing humanitarian needs. UNHCR is concerned by the growing risks Afghans on the move face, both inside Afghanistan and on their way to Europe or other safe countries.” Underscoring the gravity of the current situation and its far-reaching consequences, Grandi said “we simply do not have the option of turning our backs and walking away” and stressed the urgent need for international engagement and funds to reverse the country’s current trajectory.
High Commissioner Grandi recognised the generosity of the neighbouring Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan, which have been hosting millions of Afghan refugees for nearly four decades: “On this World Refugee Day and in this holy month of Ramadan, we stand with the Afghan people, as well as the peoples of Iran and Pakistan, celebrating their resilience, strength, generosity and determination to find solutions.”
Mr. Grandi’s visit to Afghanistan was his first since he was appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 1 January this year. He has previously served as UNHCR Chief of Mission in Afghanistan in 2001 - 2004 and as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Afghanistan in 2004 -2005. His visit was part of a regional tour taking him also to Iran and Pakistan. Arriving from Iran on 19 June, Mr. Grandi met with displaced families in Herat, where he pledged UNHCR’s support to the Provincial Government in finding lasting solutions for protracted displaced populations. He commemorated World Refugee Day on Monday 20 June with internally displaced, returnee and host communities in Kabul, visiting UNHCR’s vocational skills training programmes for these communities aimed at promoting self-reliance. He met with Chief Executive Officer Abdullah and attended a meeting of the High Commission on Migration’s Sub-Committee of the Council of Ministers. He is also meeting with President Ghani, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Refugees and Repatriation, as well as other key Ministers and high level government officials, along with United Nations and partner organizations.
Before leaving for Pakistan on 21 June, High Commissioner Grandi will also meet with ambassadors from key donor countries, urging the international community to allocate more funds for programmes targeting livelihoods, housing, health and education in order to help stabilise population movements within the country as well as strengthen resilience and help pave solutions for Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan.
UNHCR’s Representative to Afghanistan, Maya Ameratunga, welcomed the visit of the High Commissioner and his constructive meetings with senior government officials. “High Commissioner Grandi’s visit comes at a critical time when the spotlight is on renewed outflows of Afghan refugees and migrants to Europe. We must refocus international attention on the largest and most vulnerable displaced populations who are right here in our midst – the millions of internally displaced and refugees in this region. If they cannot find hope for a better future at home, the search for hope may lead them further afield. UNHCR’s solidarity remains with the people of Afghanistan on this World Refugee Day,“ said Ms. Ameratunga.
Muhammad Nader Farhad in Kabul +93 791990018