Pakistan world's largest host of refugees: UNHCR

Published June 20, 2014
An Afghan refugee family walks to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Islamabad. — File photo by Reuters
An Afghan refugee family walks to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Islamabad. — File photo by Reuters

By the end of 2013, Pakistan continued to host the largest number of refugees in the world (1.6 million), nearly all from Afghanistan, according to a report released by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Islamabad at a ceremony marked in connection with World Refugee Day which is being celebrated on Friday.

Speaking at the World Refugee Day commemorative event in Islamabad, senior UNHCR official Ms Maya Ameratunga, lauded Pakistan's role.

She said Pakistan has generously hosted the world’s largest refugee population for three decades, and it was essential to mobilise more support from the international community to sustain efforts such as the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (Raha) initiative, which is a way of thanking the hosts of these refugees.

The report titled, “War’s Human Cost: UNHCR Global Trends 2013”, shows that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.

The situation is similar for the Islamic Republic of Iran, which hosted 857,400 refugees by year-end, almost all Afghans.

At the same time voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan has also been the largest in the world, with 3.8 million having been assisted by UNHCR to return home since 2002.

The report said 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, six million more than the 45.2 million reported in 2012 and added that the reason for this massive increase was driven mainly by the war in Syria, which at the end of last year had forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees and made 6.5 million internally displaced.

Internal displacement amounted to a record 33.3 million people globally.

The UNHCR report said with some 2.56 million refugees in 86 countries, Afghanistan remained the leading country of origin of refugees in 2013 – the 33rd consecutive year it has topped this list.

Today, on average, one out of every five refugees in the world is from Afghanistan, with 95 per cent located in Pakistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The strategy helps Afghan refugees to return home safely and voluntarily and to reintegrate as citizens in their own country.

The strategy also provides support for host countries, for example through the Raha programme.

The report commended the efforts of the government of Pakistan which took the commendable initiative of adopting a National Policy on the Repatriation and Management of Afghan Refugees.

It further said that as part of this policy, the government is renewing the Proof of Registration cards of Afghan refugees, with validity until the end of 2015.

So far, some 90% of the refugees have renewed their cards at PoR Card Modification Centres.

The remaining PoR card holders must do so by August 2014 in order to remain as refugees.


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