UNHCR urges Pakistan to accept new Afghan refugees

Published September 18, 2021
ISLAMABAD: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi speaks at a press conference here on Friday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi speaks at a press conference here on Friday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has asked Pakistan to accept the new influx of refugees from Afghanistan, suggesting that if these refugees are sent back due to the lack of documentation, they may be at risk.

He said these refugees might be from minorities or they might have other issues.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Mr Grandi said the future was full of uncertainties and risks, but it was important that “we in the international community continue to engage with Taliban in order to go forward and save Afghanistan and the region from disaster”.

He said there had been no major refugee outflow but some Afghans had come to Pakistan, and they might have specific needs.

Says security situation in Afghanistan has improved, but terrorist threat remains

He said he fully understood the position of Pakistan which had so many refugees for the past 40 years.

Mr Grandi said Pakistan was very careful about refugees and wanted to be very cautious to check who was entering the country.

He claimed that the security situation in Afghanistan was improving and UNHCR would be able to scale up humanitarian assistance if the organisation was adequately supported and resourced.

“The security situation has improved, but we remain concerned about the terrorist threat. We hope the new administration is united and that they do not have divisions among themselves. Otherwise, it will be a factor of destabilisation,” he warned.

Mr Grandi said the international community should find ways to support the functioning of Afghanistan state and its institutions.

“If the state ceases to function, it will provoke a crisis much bigger than the humanitarian crisis. UNHCR has not witnessed a large outflow of refugees yet but if the state collapses, a lot of people will seek refuge in other countries. Therefore, it is important to prevent that situation,” he emphasised.

Mr Grandi said that during his meetings with government officials in Islamabad, he emphasised that “we have to do everything possible inside Afghanistan to avoid the collapse of the country”. “We don’t have to deal once again another refugee crisis after 40 years,” he said, adding that the international community should react quickly to support UNHCR in order to prevent any refugee crisis.

He said there was international realisation that Afghanistan could not be left on its own, or could not be abandoned, adding that the situation was very different from the 1990s when Afghanistan was very much left on its own.

“Now there is a realisation that leaving it on its own will spell a disaster, first of all for Afghans, then for neighbours and then for the region and beyond,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021

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