Pakistan seeks world community's help
Return of Afghan refugees
UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan has underscored the need for early return of Afghan refugees to their homeland and urged the international community to help Afghanistan take "serious steps" for their safe repatriation.
"About 33 years is a long time for any country to host millions of refugees," Ambassador Masood Khan told the General Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural matters, noting that there were still over three million of them in Pakistan.
"It is not dignified for the Afghan refugees to live in temporary shelters permanently, They must return to their homeland," he said.
"We call upon the international community to help the people and Government of Afghanistan to take serious steps for creation of a safe and conducive environment in their country so that the Afghan refugees can voluntarily return to their homeland for permanent resettlement."
Masood Khan, who was commenting on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),underlined the continuing relevance and important role of the agency, and said that while the plight of new refugees demanded more immediate attention, protracted refugee situations around the world must not be ignored or left entirely to host countries.
Referring to the continuing presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, he said that lack of adequate pull-factors in Afghanistan and continuing instability there had discouraged voluntary return, leading to a protracted refugee situation, which had resulted in serious socio-economic consequences for the local people.
"Notwithstanding the generosity of our people, the capacity of the Government of
Pakistan to indefinitely host millions of refugees should not be overestimated," the Pakistani envoy told delegates from around the world. "This is a unique refugee situation, which entails serious long-term socio-economic, political and ecological consequences."
The planned political, security and economic transitions in Afghanistan must also address the issue of refugees living in Pakistan, he emphasised.
"What Pakistan dreads most is a fresh influx of refugees from Afghanistan post-2014. We will not be able to absorb them. Therefore, effective steps should be taken right now to stem new flows of refugees from Afghanistan," the Pakistani envoy said.
"Recent international conferences have secured pledges of billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. There pledges must also factor in the repatriation and rehabilitation of the returning refugees."
That, he said, would not only ensure their participation in the rebuilding of their war-ravaged country, but will also play a positive role in political stabilisation of Afghanistan and the entire region.
In his remarks, Afghanistan's UN Ambassador Zahir Tanin said that the refugee problem was important issue for his country.
Years of violence and brutality had forced more than 10 million Afghans to countries across the globe, he said.
The Afghan government was involved with international partners, and UNHCR in particular to facilitate the return of refugees.
Pointing out that the refugees had started returning, the Afghan Ambassador said that large scale international support was required for long-term social and economic development as well as capacity-building programmes.