ISLAMABAD – 16 June 2015 – – The UN Refugee Agency and the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) marked World Refugee Day (WRD) on Tuesday with a series of events across Pakistan involving the Government of Pakistan, UNHCR, its partners, and refugee communities.
The World refugee Day is marked on 20 June every year as a tribute to the courage and resilience of the millions of people uprooted as a result of ongoing conflicts, war and natural disasters globally. In respect of Ramadan, the UNHCR in Pakistan marked the Day on 16 June.
Commemoration of the WRD in Pakistan is aimed at highlighting the world’s most protracted refugee situation. While globally, the ongoing conflict in Syria is producing the majority of refugees, Afghan refugees in south-west Asia remain the world’s most protracted refugee population, with 95 per cent of this population located in Pakistan and Iran. Globally Pakistan hosts the largest protracted refugee population (1.5 million) for over thirty-five-years.
In Pakistan, around 67 per cent of the total registered Afghan refugee population live in urban or rural areas, while 33 per cent in the established refugee villages. Since 2002, over 3.9 million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan, assisted through the largest voluntary repatriation programme in UNHCR’s history.
In his World Refugee Day speech, the Minister of States and Frontier Regions, Lt. Gen. Abdul Qadir Baloch reiterated the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to the voluntary, gradual and dignified return of Afghans back to their country.
“We are proud of our hospitality and will continue supporting every initiatives for the establishment of peace, prosperity and development in Afghanistan.” Minister Baloch stated, and continued, “A peaceful and developed Afghanistan is in the best interest of Pakistan and the improving brotherly relations between the two countries are equally important for regional peace and security.”
UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan, Mr. Indrika Ratwatte while paying tribute to the resilience of refugees, said, “Around the world, conflicts are forcing record numbers of people to flee with a devastating impact on individuals and families. The media often focuses on fighting, failed peace accords and casualties, often ignoring the human stories.” He added that “This year’s WRD campaign highlights our common humanity- by allowing people forced to flee to express themselves- to show that they are ordinary people living through extraordinary times.”
Mr. Ratwatte expressed UNHCR’s appreciation for Pakistan’s generous hospitality in hosting the world’s most protracted refugee population and commended the Government’s current efforts at formulating a policy on Afghan refugees, including its decision of documenting the non-refugee Afghan population.
In Pakistan, UNHCR as part of a government/inter-agency response, also supports the government to protect and assist the Temporarily Displace Persons (TDPs) from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
In Islamabad, government officials, heads of diplomatic missions and UN agencies, UN staff and a large number of refugees from different countries attended a friendly cricket match between Afghan refugee and Pakistani host students. Dar-ul-Sukun, a local NOG partner, at the occasion distributed free wheel-chairs among disabled refugees.
In Peshawar, UNHCR and partner organizations held various events in the refugee villages and in the urban refugee areas. Activities included awareness raising sessions, speeches/seminars, quiz/sport competitions, role play, poems, walk inside the camps, wall chalking, plantation, women’s exhibitions, cultural show, and sports event were held.
In Quetta and Karachi colourful events were organised to mark the event. Jamal Shah and Hamid Sheikh commemorated the WRD event with refugees in Quetta.
Duniya Aslam Khan for Islamabad – 0300 5017939, email [email protected]
Shandana Saad for Peshawar – 0345 8594631, email [email protected]
Javaria Tareen for Quetta – 0334 7808091 email [email protected]