ISLAMABAD – Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have agreed to take forward the three pillars of the strategy for voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, sustainable reintegration in home country and support for host countries.
The agreement was reached at an informal session of informal Quadripartite (Q4) meeting held at Geneva on the sidelines of the 70th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme.
The Q4 group informally and in principle agreed that Global Refugees Forum being held in December should showcase the good work done for Afghan refugees.
It was observed that the shortcomings that still exist in management of Afghan refugees and their gradual and voluntary repatriation should be plugged. The meeting also agreed in principle for “Support Platform” that would include additional players, expected to contribute to this cause for both the host and home countries.
The Q4 was attended by Minister for SAFRON & Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Afghan Minister for Refugees & Repatriation Syed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, and UNHCR Regional Director.
During the meeting, Shehryar Afridi elaborated Pakistan’s immense contribution in all fields in hosting the Afghan refugees. He said that Pakistan had been incurring billions of dollars to facilitate the Afghan refugees in health, education, protection, documentation, trainings, livelihood and other welfare initiatives. He said that the latest initiative taken to facilitate the Afghan refugees is that they have been allowed to open and operate bank accounts.
“Pakistan doesn’t seek praise for its commitment towards welfare and wellbeing of Afghan refugees. Pakistan needs acknowledgement and commitment from other partners in burden and responsibility sharing,” he added.
Afridi stressed that prosperous world must do more in a predictable manner for their contributions.
Hussain Alemi Balkhi from Afghanistan said that they supported the return of all Afghan refugees and for their reintegration in their homeland. He said that the Afghan government has ambitiously been working on 15-20 areas of refugees return.
“Those areas are being developed to settle the returnees. We are also working for an incentive for the returnees. We are hopeful that the Global Refugee Forum meetings due in December in Geneva this year would go a long way in this regard,” Mr Balkhi said.
Iran’s Interior minister Abdolreza Rehmani Fazli said that only words and commitments are not enough and some practical and bold steps are required to ensure return of refugees.
“To make these meetings meaningful, a group of experts from all countries should be constituted so that they do the ground work, identify gaps, hold initial discussions and bring recommendations to this forum,” Mr Fazli said. He said that the first priority should be security and shelter for refugees in Afghanistan and the second priority should be provision of health, education and livelihood in Afghanistan. “And only then we may see a progress,” he concluded.