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Refugees repatriation discussed with Iran, Afghanistan, UN

June 18, 2019

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In this file photo from September 7, 2016, Afghan refugees wait to register at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation centre on the outskirts of Peshawar. — AFP
In this file photo from September 7, 2016, Afghan refugees wait to register at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriation centre on the outskirts of Peshawar. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Quadripartite Steering Committee or Q-4 — which consists of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) — met here on Monday to discuss voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees and sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries.

The meeting chaired by Minister for States and Frontier Regions Shehryar Khan Afridi was attended by Syed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation of Afghanistan; Hossein Zolfaghari, Iranian Deputy Minister of Interior for Security and Disciplinary Affairs and Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNHCR.

The meeting called on the international community to support host countries and communities and provide development assistance to put an end to a future displacement of Afghans.

All parities reaffirmed their commitment to the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) and agreed to extend it to year 2021 and to retain it as a valid framework for identifying and implementing solutions for Afghan refugees. The representatives reiterated their call for a joint advocacy and resource mobilisation to support the implementation of the strategy. The participants urged the development actors and other partners to help provide adequate, tangible and predictable support and assistance in support of the implementation of the SSAR.

International community urged to support host countries and provide development assistance

The parties reaffirmed their assurance to the principle of voluntary repatriation with safety and dignity and called for joint efforts to create an environment conducive to phased, gradual and orderly voluntary return and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, as well as to continue to more appropriately support host communities in Iran and Pakistan, within the SSAR framework.

Addressing the participants, Mr Afridi said Pakistan had been hosting Afghan refugees in line with the spirit and precedence set by the Ansaar of Madina who sacrificed their lives and assets by sharing everything with the migrants from Makkah.

Mr Afridi appealed to the international community for more funds for the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas programme and called for reintegration assistance inside Afghanistan that was in line with the commitments for responsibility and burden-sharing.

Speaking on the occasion, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific Dire­ctor Indrika Ratwatte acknowledged and appreciated the people and governments of Pakistan and Iran for hosting Afghan refugees for four decades.

He underlined the need for robust support of the international community in ensuring the sustainability of voluntary returns in Afghanistan and in providing tangible support to host communities in the host countries.

Mr Ratwatte said millions of people were displaced worldwide. “Despite challenges and emerging displacements globally, the UNHCR equally advocates for supporting protracted situation like Afghanistan,” he said.

Afghan minister Balkhi said that due to large numbers of migrants and refugees in Pakistan and Iran and insecurity in Afghanistan, they had not reached the goals set in the SSAR. “The needs for SSAR continue to exist and I, therefore, call on the extension of the SSAR timeframe,” he said.

Iranian minister Zolfaghari said his country had enhanced services for Afghan refugees, adding that it was issuing driving licences and work visas and regularising parts of the population. He said Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan needed more international support and the UNHCR needed to step up its efforts to urge the global community to fulfil its commitments made for the humanitarian cause of Afghan refugees.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2019