ISLAMABAD: The UN refugee agency and the government of Pakistan marked the World Refugee Day on Tuesday by paying tributes to the resilience and courage of people who are displaced due to conflicts or persecution across the world.
Speaking at an event organised by UNHCR, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar expressed concern over the increasing numbers of displaced people across the world, saying the growing number of displacements globally was adversely affecting Pakistan which had been hosting the world’s largest protracted refugee population.
“Amid our own financial challenges, we have opened our doors to Afghan and other refugees; however, the international community must come forward to play their role as part of responsibility sharing,” she said.
Voluntary return of Afghans in safety and dignity is the preferred solution for Pakistan,” she said, adding continuous support should be provided to the returning families in Afghanistan so that the return is sustainable.
Amid financial challenges, we have opened doors to Afghan and other refugees, minister says on World Refugee Day
UNHCR representative in Pakistan Noriko Yoshida paid tributes to the resilience of refugees and the generosity of host communities that provided shelter and protection for refugees as well as giving them access to education and healthcare.
“World Refugee Day is a time to recognise the generosity of host countries who have kept their borders and hearts open to people in need of protection,” she said, adding Pakistan’s solidarity for over four decades was an example of commitment to protecting the rights of 1.3 million Afghan and other refugees and giving hope away from home.
“We hope that Pakistan will continue to show its generosity and hospitality towards the refugees in Pakistan,” she said.
Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Abbas Khan and UN resident/humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan Julien Harneis also spoke on the occasion.
At the event, Afghan refugee children presented a cultural performance. An art exhibition and handmade products made by refugees were also put on display.
In Balochistan, UNHCR arranged several activities to raise awareness about refugees. An event was organised in Quetta, which was attended by representatives from the UN, the government and other partners.
Balochistan Governor Malik Abdul Wali Kakar was the chief guest on the occasion. Refugee children presented traditional performances. Refugee artisans also displayed their work.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, UNHCR and its partner organisations organised events.
An exhibition to showcase a range of colours of Afghan culture, including art and crafts, music and literature, jewellery and embroidery work and traditional food was also organized.
According to UNHCR’s flagship annual report, the number of people displaced by war, persecution, violence and human rights abuses stood at a record 108.4 million, up 19.1 million from a year earlier, which was the biggest ever increase.
The trend witnessed an increase in displacement in 2023, pushing the global total to an estimated 110 million by May this year. More than one in 74 people worldwide remained forcibly displaced.
The number of refugees hosted in Asia and the Pacific region rose from 4.2 million in 2021 to 6.8 million by the end of 2022, nearly 20 per cent of the global total. Over 90pc of all refugees in the region are hosted in just three countries - Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2023