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2017: Making sustainable solutions a reality for Afghan refugees

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UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Mr Indrika Ratwatte and Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (R) Abdul Quadir Baloch exchanging the signed Tripartite Agreement after the meeting. © UNHCR/A.Shahzad

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, 15 FEBRUARY 2017 – Representatives of the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Afghanistan and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) underlined the importance of moving expeditiously from policy to implementation to support the needs of Afghan refugees.

Afghanistan has recently formed a high-level Displacement and Return Executive Committee (DiREC) to prioritise assistance needs and reintegration prospects of internally displaced people and returnees under the Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework.

Pakistan last week adopted a national policy relating to the management of Afghan refugees and Afghan nationals living in the country. This provides a comprehensive, predictable and sustainable response to managing refugee and migration issues in Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan hosted the 28th Tripartite Commission – a high-level meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday attended by the Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Lt. General (Retired) Abdul Quadir Baloch, Afghanistan’s Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) Sayed Hossein Alimi Balkhi, deputy Minister of Finance of Afghanistan, Mohammad Mustafa Mastoor, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Dr. Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and other senior government officials.

The UN refugee agency was represented by country representatives based in Pakistan, Indrika Ratwatte and in Afghanistan Ms. Fathiaa Abdalla. The governments and UNHCR reiterated their commitment to uphold the principles of voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity, in line with the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR).

Representatives of UNHCR and Afghanistan government expressed appreciation to the government of Pakistan for adoption of a national policy relating to the management of Afghan refugees and Afghan nationals in Pakistan, which extends the validity of the Proof of Registration cards until the end of 2017; commits to adoption of a national refugee law; includes plans for documentation of Afghan nationals who currently have no identification and builds on the existing visa regime – making it more flexible for different categories of Afghan nationals.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), Lt. General (Retired) Abdul Quadir Baloch said: “The protracted Afghan refugee crisis shouldn’t be forgotten and more practical steps need to be taken in Afghanistan for the sustainable reintegration of returnees. I also today call again for collective and sustained efforts to provide financial support to enable Afghans to return home.”

Afghanistan’s Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) Sayed Hossein Alimi Balkhi said: “The government of Afghanistan is taking practical measures to implement reintegration and integration projects to ensure access to basic services for returnees.” UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan Indrika Ratwatte underscored the importance of youth empowerment through education, skills and livelihoods to build the resilience, self-reliance and human capital of future generations and a way of promoting regional stability.

Ratwatte said: “Access to education of Afghan children in Pakistan as well as of returnee children in Afghanistan is crucial. More effort is now needed to resolve academic certificate equivalency issues for returnee children and youth.” UNHCR’s Representative in Afghanistan, Ms. Fathiaa Abdalla emphasised the importance of sustainable return and reintegration as a national priority and complement to the cash grant.

In view of facilitating self-reliance of returnees, this includes access to land, shelter, social services, livelihood opportunities and representation in a community-based approach.” An extension until 31 December 2017 of the Tripartite Agreement between the governments of the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Afghanistan was signed at the meeting.

The Tripartite Commission is the formal body that governs the stay and return of Afghans since 2002. Under this agreement some 4.1 million Afghan refugees have gone back to Afghanistan.

ENDS

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Duniya Aslam Khan – +92 300 5017939, khand@unhcr.org
Qaiser Khan Afridi – +92 300 5018696, afridiq@unhcr.org
Dan McNorton – +92 300 0540320, mcnorton@unhcr.org