The top United Nations refugee official today wrapped up a three-day visit to Pakistan, during which the Government agreed to revise a plan for the repatriation of the nearly 2 million remaining Afghan refugees in the country that was due to end next year.
More than 3.4 million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan since 2002 with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), leaving an estimated 1.8 million registered Afghans still living there today.
“Pakistan is UNHCR’s biggest partner, hosting the world’s largest refugee population for so many years,” said UN High Commissioner António Guterres. “No other country has shown such generosity towards its neighbours, and it’s important to mobilize more support amongst the international community for this great effort.”
During his visit, Mr. Guterres met with top Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Syed Yousef Raza Gilani and Minister of States and Frontier Regions Najmuddin Khan.
Mr. Guterres stressed that the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan is among his top priorities this year. “We are working on a comprehensive strategy that involves assisting the host communities in Pakistan, fully supporting voluntary repatriation and reintegration, while keeping in mind the challenges in Afghanistan,” he said.
To assist Pakistan in its efforts to host the refugees, the High Commissioner presented a pilot project proposal for the refugee affected and hosting areas (RAHA) in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province.
“The UN team in Pakistan is fully committed to the RAHA initiative and will appeal for resources to support it,” he said about the project, which will rehabilitate and upgrade infrastructure and services in the sectors of water, sanitation, health care, primary education, environment and livelihood.
Mr. Guterres also announced that an International Conference on Return and Reintegration will be held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in mid-November to galvanize support for the refugees, returnees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in that country.
While in Pakistan, he also met with the UN country team and member countries of the Group of Eight and the European Union to mobilize support for the RAHA project proposal and the upcoming conference in Kabul.