Forty years ago, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Government of Pakistan signed an agreement to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to millions of refugees fleeing war in Afghanistan.
The first 25 years of UNHCR’s presence in Pakistan were dedicated to the protection of Afghan refugees. The organization built refugee camps, assisted new arrivals, documented, registered and protected individuals.
Throughout the years of war in Afghanistan, Pakistan hosted the largest number of refugees in the world. Despite facing its own economic and social challenges, Pakistan has always maintained its tradition of hospitality by offering refuge to those in need.
Since 2002, in what has become the world’s largest assisted return programme, UNHCR has been facilitating voluntary repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees from Pakistan. Ten years after programme began, UNHCR has directly helped around 4.4 million Afghans to return home.
Though its mandate is to protect refugees rather than to respond to natural disasters, UNHCR was quick to take action when a devastating earthquake hit northern Pakistan in October 2005. Its emergency relief efforts then, and again in response to historic flooding in 2010 and 2011, assisted millions of families who had lost their homes and their livelihoods.
UNHCR Pakistan works closely with the government’s Ministry for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON). Together, UNHCR and SAFRON are plotting the future of the Afghan voluntary repatriation programme.