Agreement on Afghan repatriation from Pakistan extended three years
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 2 August (UNHCR) - The governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UN Refugee Agency today extended the tripartite agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghans from Pakistan for another three years.
The tripartite agreement provides the legal and operational framework for the voluntary repatriation of Afghans from Pakistan. To date, more than 3 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan under the voluntary repatriation programme since 2002. There are approximately 2.05 million registered Afghans remaining in Pakistan.
The agreement was signed by Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees; Mohammad Akbar Akbar, the acting Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR); and Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) in Pakistan.
"I am delighted at the spirit of cooperation in which Afghanistan and Pakistan have been discussing this issue and have renewed the Agreement," Cheng-Hopkins said in welcoming the agreement. "By doing so, they have again recognized and have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to the principles of voluntary, gradual and sustainable returns that are enshrined in the agreement."
She is currently on a 10 day mission in the region. In the past few days, she has been visiting Afghanistan where more than 4 million Afghans have returned home so far. After her visit to Pakistan, she will go onto Iran.
"I am very grateful for the exceptional generosity that has been shown by Pakistan in hosting Afghan refugees, many of whom have stayed for more than two decades," said Akbar. "However, the road to reconstruction, security and peace is a long one, hence the importance of this agreement on voluntary and gradual returns."
A tripartite commission formed under the agreement meets three times a year to discuss and review issues related to the stay of Afghans in Pakistan and their voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan.
Rind, Pakistan's minister for SAFRON, stressed that Pakistan has remained a generous host for Afghans for over 25 Years. "The government and people of Pakistan now feel it is about time that Afghan refugees repatriate to their homeland in dignity and with honour to play an important and pivotal role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan," he said. The minister called on the international community to honour their commitments for the reconstruction of Afghanistan to ensure sustainable repatriation, and share the burden with Pakistan for hosting Afghans.
"In terms of conditions (for returning Afghans) back home, I think we all know after years, when you have decades of war and neglect, obviously infrastructure has gone down and there are very few chances for people to make a livelihood," Cheng-Hopkins said at a subsequent news conference.
"These things, take a long long time. As we all know development are not a miracle that happens overnight. It takes long investments, long dedicated periods of time," the UNHCR assistant high commissioner said. "But I am hopeful we are seeing the beginning of it. Certainly the government of Afghanistan, the UN, the donor community, everybody is geared in that direction - to invest in reintegration for returnees."
By Babar Baloch in Islamabad, Pakistan