PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Sardar Ali Amin Khan Gandapur has offered free health services to Afghan nationals living in the province if United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agrees to fund the programme.

The chief minister expressed these views while talking to a delegation of UNHCR in Islamabad on Monday. The delegation was led by the representative of UNHCR for Pakistan Philippa Cadler. The delegation called on the chief minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House, Islamabad, and discussed with him matters related to Afghan refugees living in the province.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been providing free health services to the residents of the province under its health insurance programme titled Sehat Card Plus.

Under the programme, 10.2 million families comprising 33.2 million persons of the province are entitled to seek cashless treatment anywhere in the country. A family is allowed to get free treatment services up to Rs1 million annually.

CM also suggests launching of skill development programme for refugees

The government has more than 700 empanelled hospitals where the people possessing the national identity card of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can seek free treatment services. Of the empanelled hospitals, 118 are located in the province and the rest are in other provinces and Islamabad.

During the meeting, the UNHCR delegation and chief minister agreed to further strengthen partnership for providing improved facilities to refugees living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and resolve their issues on sustainable basis, according to a statement issued here.

The chief minister told the delegation that the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been hosting their Afghan brethren for several decades in the province. He added that during the repatriation process of illegal immigrants, more than 300,000 refugees went back voluntarily to their homeland.

He said that provincial government, as per traditions of the land, had extended all possible facilities to the immigrants going back to their homeland voluntarily. He said that the humanitarian aspect of the matter was fully taken care of and not a single complaint was received during the entire process of voluntary repatriation of the refugees.

Mr Gandapur said that the decision about repatriation of undocumented immigrants to their homelands was taken by the federal government and it would be implemented. However, he said that the immigrants having valid documents would have no issue to stay in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He also underlined the need for strengthening partnership between the provincial government and UNHCR for facilitating the immigrants living in the province in a more efficient manner. He said that the provincial government was committed to extending all out support to UNHCR in that regard.

The chief minister said that Afghan refugees, residing in Pakistan particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, could be empowered and employed by imparting technical skills to them.

He added that if UNHCR was planning to start a programme in that regard, the provincial government could help in imparting training to Afghan youth in its centres established for technical education.

Commenting on the electricity issues in refugee camps, Mr Gandapur said that provision of solar energy was the best way to resolve the issues of electricity loadshedding in those camps. He said that provincial government was also ready to cooperate with UNHCR in that regard as well.

Talking to delegation, the chief minister said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was also taking steps to re-settle displaced people of merged districts.

He added that the government needed support of donor organisations including UNHCR for the resettlement of those displaced people.

The delegates thanked Pakistan, especially the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for their hospitality to Afghan refugees for a long time. They said that the cooperation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in the process of voluntary return of foreigners to their countries was praise worthy.

They said that collaboration with the provincial government would be made more coordinated for the sustainable solutions to the problems of refugees living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and providing them with the best facilities.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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