The UN refugee agency’s voluntary repatriation programme for registered Afghan refugees resumed yesterday after the winter break. The voluntary repatriation operation had been suspended for the winter period from 1 December 2018 until 28 February 2019. UNHCR will facilitate repatriation from the voluntary repatriation centres at Azakhel, Nowshera in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baleli, Quetta in Balochistan.
Pakistan continues to host 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees who are holding Proof of Registration (PoR) cards. Around 4.4 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme since 2002. The Proof of Registration card allows Afghan refugees the right to temporary legal stay in Pakistan.
“While voluntary repatriation is a preferred solution for the majority of Afghan refugees, it needs to be well-informed, voluntary, safe and dignified,” said Ms. Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan. Ms. Menikdiwela said UNHCR acknowledges and appreciates the people and government of Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for four decades. She said this firm generosity has contributed to the global refugee cause at a time when we witness pushbacks of refugees and asylum fatigue globally. As the year 2019 marks the 40 years of the Afghan displacement, Ms. Menikdiwela reiterated her call to the international community to help enhance Afghanistan’s absorption capacity and provide targeted development assistance in high return areas in Afghanistan for sustainable reintegration of returnees. She also called for support to Afghan refugees and their host communities. She also reaffirmed UNHCR’s commitment to work with the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan on long-term solutions for 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
The Kabul Times