Pakistan won’t force Afghan refugees to return home, says Minister

Peshawar, Nov 9: Pakistan’s minister for states and frontier region Engineer Shaukat Ullah has said that Pakistan will not forcefully send Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan, instead the government will finalise a strategy for their return after the December deadline expires.

“We are formulating a new strategy for the refugees in Pakistan in 2013 and beyond which would require the approval of the cabinet,” The Express Tribune quoted Shaukat, as saying. He said that the return of the refugees to their homeland would continue in a dignified manner for those volunteering for it.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN had an agreement according to which Afghan refugees living in Pakistan would be allowed to stay till December 2012.

Neill Wright, UNHCR representative in Pakistan said that UNHCR had supported the government of Pakistan and provided hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance to the refugees hosted in Pakistan over the decades.

“Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR have signed a Regional Solution Strategy under which the international community will provide 600.10 million dollars to continue voluntarily support to Afghan refugees’ repatriation,” he said.

The new assistance package offered by UNHCR includes kits, jerry cans, buckets, soap, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, blankets, cooking set, plastic tarpaulins, quilt, sanitary clothes and winter clothes, he said.

The package also includes limited transport assistance from the voluntary repatriation centers in Pakistan to the Encashment centers in Afghanistan for refugee families.

This assistance package is in addition to the 150-dollar grant provided to returning families and will continue till the end of December 2012.

So far, almost 1,300 Afghan refugees have returned home under the Facilitated Return Group (FRG) programme from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

Overall, 62,500 individuals have returned in 2012, which indicates a 34 per cent increase in the number of Afghan refugees who have returned home. (ANI)