9 June 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For 22 of the past 40 years, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has ranked as the world’s largest refugee hosting country, and Pakistan remains a long-standing global leader in the field of refugee protection.
This leadership has been demonstrated not just by the host communities who have generously welcomed and supported refugees for decades, but also in progressive and inclusive policies that enable Afghan refugees to access public education and healthcare – efforts accompanied by multiyear investments in building resilience and social cohesion, including through the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas initiative.
Just a month ago, the Government launched yet another landmark initiative – to provide new biometric smartcards to the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, furthering protection and laying the foundation for their eventual voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan.
In the face of grave implications of the pandemic, Pakistan also continues to ensure that “no one is left behind” and includes Afghan refugees in its COVID-19 response, including the Government’s vaccination program.
At the same time, there are 840,000 Afghan Citizen Card holders and an estimated 400,000 undocumented Afghans who, whilst not registered refugees, are included in the Humanitarian Response Programme.
But the generosity of Pakistan has not come without cost. Hosting millions of refugees has affected local infrastructure, services, the environment, and presents other challenges which are compounded by the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.
It is critically important that the generosity of the people and Government of Pakistan is matched by that of the international community, which must – frankly – do more to help Pakistan shoulder the responsibility of hosting Afghan refugees.
I therefore encourage donors to support Pakistan, including through generous contributions to the HRP being launched today, which helps address some of the humanitarian needs in the country.
This includes Afghan refugees, whose needs make up about one third of the HRP.
Pakistan and its people have stood with generations of Afghan refugees who have entered their fifth decade of displacement. The international community must stand firmly with Pakistan in a spirit of partnership for humanitarian action, protection and solutions.