Senior UN official urges global action to end years-long plight of 2.6 million Afghan refugees
"It is critical that the international community steps up to support the Afghan government in their efforts to create adequate conditions for Afghans to return home and restart their lives in safety and dignity," António Guterres said Friday at a press conference, wrapping up his three-day visit to the Pakistan.
Reinvigorated and continued support, Mr. Guterres stressed, was crucial to Afghanistan’s national building and reconciliation. He therefore suggested robust development initiatives, which create durable return in the long run and sustainable reintegration for returning Afghans, especially the youth.
The future of some 2.6 million Afghan refugees, with many having been living outside the country for over three decades, still hangs in the balance while fresh emergencies in the Middle East and Africa compete for global attention, warned Mr. Guterres.
Applauding Pakistan's goodwill and hospitality as a host country, he also noted that "the unwavering generosity of Pakistani people towards Afghan refugees has contributed to regional stability but also more broadly to the global refugee cause at a time when we witness increased asylum fatigue worldwide."
However, traditional approaches are no longer sufficient for solutions in 2015, given prevailing challenges in Afghanistan, said Mr. Guterres, adding that, “in an environment of shrinking humanitarian resources, it is vital to pursue innovative solutions and creative joint advocacy and resource mobilization."
In this regard, UN-backed pro-active joint resource mobilization, together with programmes stimulating voluntary repatriation and supporting sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees, are among the preferred solutions.
As an important first step in these efforts, a joint mission to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries is planned in late August 2015.
Since 2002, over 3.8 million Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan, assisted through the largest voluntary repatriation programme in UNHCR's history.
Pakistan is currently hosting 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees – the largest protracted refugee population globally, of which 67 per cent live in urban and peri-urban areas, while 33 per cent remain in special refugee villages.