One in four refugees in today’s world are Afghans and while the Syrians are about to overtake that, the onus is on Afghanistan to do more to ensure the return of five million refugees back to their country after the drawdown of U.S. troops.
This was Pakistan’s appeal on Tuesday as it called on donors to provide $367 million for the implementation of various projects. The United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees Antonio Guterres and the federal minister for states and frontier regions Lt. Gen. Abdul Qadir Baloch launched the Pakistan Portfolio of projects under the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) seeking international funding support.
Lt. Gen. Baloch said the cut-off date for the over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan had been extended to December 31, 2015 after quite a bit of effort. “I don’t know how long we can test the patience of the local population,” he said, while appealing to the donor community to come forward and reduce the negative impact. He said there are complaints from the previous Afghan government that nothing meaningful was done to develop sites for refugees to return home. “How long can we wait for that,” the minister said.
He said Pakistan was committed to ensuring that refugees return in dignity and not under duress. Issues of the refugees not wanting to go back voluntarily will be addressed when the time comes and it was up to the Afghanistan government to develop infrastructure for them and a substantive effort needs to be done. There has to be a pull factor which attracts refugees into Afghanistan, he added.
Janan Mosazai, the Afghanistan ambassador to Pakistan said the refugees did not leave of their own volition and it was due to the Soviet invasion of the country.
Pakistan committed to ensure they return in dignity and not under duress, says Minister