ISLAMABAD, May 31: The pace of repatriation of Afghan refugees has declined sharply over the past two years mainly because of the uncertain security situation in their country.
According to officials, under an agreement signed this year between Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) and UNHCR, about three million remaining refugees were to be repatriated to Afghanistan by the end of December this year, but a very small number of them have since returned.
The Afghan government is trying to resettle them before the exit of foreign troops in 2014 and beyond.
A 40-member jirga of Afghan elders led by Minister for Refugees and Rehabilitation Dr Jamaher Anwari is visiting Islamabad and has held a series of meetings with officials of the UNHCR and the ministry of Safron to find ways for early repatriation of the refugees.
On Wednesday, the jirga members met Minister for Safrom Shaukatullah Khan who assured them that the Pakistan government would take every possible step to accelerate the pace of repatriation of Afghan refugees.
The minister said all segments of society would be taken on board in this respect. He called upon the UNHCR to increase the support package for refugees from $150 per person to $500 because they would have to purchase households for themselves on return.Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Umar Daudzai, chief commissioner for Afghan refugees, secretary of Safron and other officials of the ministry attended the jirga.
The elders complained to the Afghan minister of various problems being faced by the refugees, including police harassment and health and education related issues, and asked him to resolve these issues.
The refugees demanded full security for their families’ life and property for resettlement in Afghanistan. The Afghan elders were informed that most of their complaints vis-à-vis police harassment revolved around their non-registration with the authorities.
The jirga was informed that at present more than one million of the three million Afghan displaced persons were not registered with the authorities and because of this they were facing a number of problems.
Dr Jamaher told the Afghan elders that they should play their role in development, betterment and rehabilitation of their country. He assured them of security and other related facilities when they would return to their homes.