ISLAMABAD, The representatives of the Islamic Republics of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency called on the international community to support refugee hosting countries and communities and provide development assistance to put an end to future Afghan displacement.
6th Quadripartite Steering Committee Meeting held here with Minister for SAFRON Shehryar Khan Afridi in the chair. H.E Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR), represented the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; H.E Hossein Zolfaghari, Deputy Minister of Interior for Security and Disciplinary Affairs, represented the Islamic Republic of Iran; and Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, represented UNHCR.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss developments and challenges in the implementation of the multi-year regional Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) to support voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries and to improve the implementation mechanisms and coordinated efforts.
All parities pledged their commitment to the Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) which remains the multilateral framework for identifying and implementing solutions for Afghan refugees. The representatives reiterated their call for joint advocacy and resource mobilization to support the implementation of the strategy. The participants also urged world donors to implement pledged made to support voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees.
The parties reaffirmed their assurance to the principle of voluntary repatriation in 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, Minister SAFRON Shehryar Afridi said Pakistan has been hosting our Afghan brethren in line with the spirit and precedence set by the Ansaar of Madinah who sacrificed their lives and assets by sharing everything with the migrants from Makkah who had to migrate along with Holy Prophet (PBUH).
He said this moot has once again highlighted the need for the world community to understand the pain of being displaced which cannot be fully removed despite consolation by the host countries of Iran and Pakistan.
“Though the recent war and conflict in Syria and Iraq, it seems the priorities of the global community are fast changing under the influence of world powers and Afghan refugees issues have been put on the backburner. Due to this new change in priorities, Pakistan and Iran have been left to suffer the most as both our states are already suffering due to certain sanctions by the US,” said the Minister.
However, the minister proposed all participants not to get swayed along with the global trends on refugee issue.
“Rather, since the world has been a witness to the magnitude of human suffering and agony the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran have gone through due to the Afghan conflict, UNHCR must stand by our region and advocate to the world community not to change its priorities on whims and wishes of global partners and rather fulfil commitments made to the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to help facilitate the smooth repatriation of Afghan refugees,” he maintained.
The Minister called for concerted and predictable efforts for development inside Afghanistan that could attract the refugees to go back to their homeland.
He said the government of Pakistan remains committed to voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees in safety and with dignity.
Afridi appealed to the international community for more funds for Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme and called for reintegration assistance inside Afghanistan that are in line with the commitments for responsibility and burden-sharing.
Speaking on the occasion, Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific 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 host countries.
Ratwatte said millions of people are displaced worldwide. “Despite challenges and emerging displacements globally, UNHCR equally advocates for supporting protracted situation like Afghanistan,” he said.
“Sustainable return is linked to sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan. If the integration is not sustainable, people will remain on the move, he said.
Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, Afghanistan’s Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR), said due to the large number of migrants and refugees in Pakistan and Iran and insecurity in Afghanistan, they have not reached the goals set in the SSAR. “The need for SSAR continue to exist and I, therefore, call on the extension of the SSAR timeframe,” he said.
He said following the establishment of the National Unity Government, return and reintegration and addressing the needs of Afghan refugees and migrants become a top priority of the government.
The minister appreciated the Islamic republic of Pakistan and Iran for hosting Afghan refugees for the last 40 years.
Hossein Zolfaghari, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Interior for Security and Disciplinary Affairs at the occasion said, Iran has enhanced services for Afghan refugees, issued driving licenses, regularise parts of the population and has been issuing 550000 work visa on annually.
He said that Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan needed more international support and the UNHCR needs to step up its efforts to urge the global community to fulfil their commitments made for the humanitarian cause of Afghan refugees.