Afghan refugees in Pakistan. - File Photo.

PESHAWAR, Dec 19: The birth rate of Afghan refugees is higher than their rate of return to their home country, according to officials.

“The repatriation (of Afghan refugees) is not visible because of high birthrate of Afghan babies. Approximately 50,000 Afghan children are born every year,” said Afghan Refugees Commissioner Zaheerul Islam Abbasi.

He was briefing a meeting of five provincial sub-committees of Afghan Management and Repatriation Strategy, held with Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Mohammad Azam Khan in the chair a few days ago, said a press release issued here on Monday.

Mr Abbasi told the meeting that Afghan government had requested them to slow down the repatriation process as its capacity was not enough to settle the returning refugees.

He explained the new Afghan Management and Repatriation Strategy 2010-11 and stressed the need for dignified and voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees.

He said that presently two million Afghan nationals were living in Pakistan. According to him besides the high birthrate, returning of Afghans after their repatriation was also affecting the process.

Mr Abbasi said that target set for repatriation of Afghan refugees could not be achieved owing to slow process during the current year because of non-conducive environment in Afghanistan.

On the occasion, the home and tribal affairs secretary said that joint efforts and strong coordination should be made by all the stakeholders of five sub-committees to manage Afghan nationals in the province and expedite voluntary repatriation.

He said that the infrastructure of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been overburdened owing to the prolonged stay of Afghan refugees in the province.The meeting observed that despite clear-cut decision with the consent of UNHCR in a meeting, held on Sept 27 this year, funds were not provided for fencing of Afghan Refugees camps in Dir.

The meeting was informed that two voluntary repatriation centers at Timergara and Bannu would become operational form January and March next year respectively.

The meeting decided that excise and taxation department would set up a special task force to compile the data of Afghan refugees, who had purchased vehicles, shops and business centres in all the districts of the province. The data would be presented to the provincial cabinet. It was decided that the data would be provided within one week.

Similarly, data of landed and residential properties purchased by Afghans will be collected. Disciplinary action will be taken against the officials concerned for delaying presentation of the said data.

The meeting directed all district police officers to provide data of Afghan refugees living outside camps. It was said that identification of properties purchased by Afghan refugees in all the districts by the intelligence agencies needed to be pursued continuously.

“Complete data from all the remaining districts should be provided at the earliest so that a policy decision regarding disposal of the illegal properties is taken by the provincial cabinet in the next meeting to be chaired by chief minister,” the meeting said.

The participants of the meeting said that Afghan refugees, who wanted to repatriate voluntarily during the year 2012, should be given more incentives. Repatriation during winter should not be stopped and Afghan refuges repatriating to warmer areas should be given propriety during winter, they added.

It was also decided that labour and industries department would provide data of Afghan refugees working in industries without any further delay.

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