UN agreement on Afghan returnees from Pakistan extended for three more years

UN agreement on Afghan returnees from Pakistan extended for three more years

Afghanistan (L), Pakistan and UNHCR extend agreement
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has extended by another three years its agreement with Pakistan and Afghanistan that has already regulated the voluntary repatriation of more than 3 million Afghans to their homeland since the fall of the Taliban.

The agreement was signed yesterday by UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees Judy Cheng-Hopkins and representatives of the Afghan and Pakistani Governments, UNHCR said in a press release from Islamabad.

About 2.05 million registered Afghans remain in Pakistan, and those that return to Afghanistan in the next three years will be covered under the tripartite deal, which provides for the legal and operational framework for the repatriations.

Ms. Cheng-Hopkins said she was delighted by the spirit of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan that had allowed the agreement to be established and now extended.

“By doing so, they have again recognized and have demonstrated their ongoing commitment to the principles of voluntary, gradual and sustainable returns that are enshrined in the agreement,” she said.

Under the deal, a tripartite commission meets three times a year to discuss issues related to the repatriations and to those Afghans still living in Pakistan.

At least four million Afghans have returned home since the Taliban fell at the end of 2001, mostly from Pakistan but also from Iran. Returning refugees receive a reintegration package from UNHCR.

Ms. Cheng-Hopkins noted that conditions for returning Afghans remain difficult in their homeland after decades of war and misrule.

“These things take a long, long time. As we all know, development is not a miracle that happens overnight. It takes long investments [and] long, dedicated periods of time. But I am hopeful we are seeing the beginning of it.”