The Pakistani Government today reached an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency allowing some 1.7 million Afghans to continue sheltering in their country until the end of 2012.
The pact sets out measures relating to the temporary stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, their gradual and voluntary repatriation, and international support for hosting one of the largest refugee communities in the world.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Guenet Guebre-Christof and Pakistan’s Minister of State and Frontier Regions Najamuddin Khan signed the Letter of Mutual Intent at a ceremony in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
“This is a responsible move by Pakistan, which recognizes both the realities on the ground in Afghanistan and the importance of robust systems to legalize and manage the temporary stay of Afghans in Pakistan,” said Ms. Guebre-Christof.
Under the agreement UNHCR will raise $140 million from the international community to fund the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme, which includes development projects aimed at boosting employment prospects, reviving agricultural and irrigation systems, repairing farm to market roads, improving crop and livestock production, and marketing produce.
With some 45 per cent of Afghans camped in refugee villages and the rest scattered among host communities, the RAHA programme benefits both Afghans and Pakistanis in 21 districts of Pakistan, mostly in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province, which have hosted the majority of Afghan refugees.
UNHCR has also committed to raise funds for the Registration Information Project of Afghan Citizens (RIPAC) to improve the quality of registration data and to update and correct the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards so that information about the Afghan population remains current.
Since 2002, almost 3.5 million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan with UNHCR assistance.