Majority of Afghan refugees returning due to harassment and arrest in Pakistan, UNHCR

Peshawar: United Nation High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that repatriation of Afghan Refugees in the first quarter of the current year was high as compared to the previous year as fear of arrestment and deportation was one of the major cause of high repatriation to Afghanistan.

“ Around 12000 individuals repatriated from different parts of Pakistan in first three months among whom 41% repatriated due to fear of arrest, harassment or deportation, 30% of those returned due to closer of camps, 15% of them returned due to deteriorating living conditions in Pakistan, 4% to join family members in Afghanistan and only 3% returned due to improving in security situation while 7% returned to other reasons,” said Jacques Franquin, head of UNHCR sub office Peshawar in question answer session with journalists.

Jacques Franquin said situation for refugees holding Proof of Registration (PoR) after Army Public School Attack was not very satisfactory and 700 of them arrested at various parts of Pakistan whereas many families in Punjab and Azad Kashmir despite having legal documents for stay till December 31 were forced to return.

UNHCR, he said was trying to devise a durable solution of Afghan Refugees as funds for them has been gradually on decline and donors were more now reluctant to pay for Afghan Refugees.

Pakistan, he said had been refusing integration of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan and stressing for their repatriation however it would be hard that 1.5 million registered Afghans would return voluntarily within next eight months of this year.

“ We would definitely want to extend legal stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan as UNHCR want voluntarily return of refugees with dignity and honor,” he said adding that voluntarily repatriation of refugees in such a large number would mainly depend on situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, he said despite the signatory of Refugees convention with 145 other countries had not been able to make any refugee law. “Lacking of refugees’ law in Pakistan has deprived refugees of certain rights. With PoR they cannot open their bank accounts, get driving license and other legal rights” he observed.

To a question, he said 512,585 (53%) individuals of Afghan Refugee were living in host communities and 452,716 (47%) individuals were living in 64 refugees villages which were now reduced to 40 villages.

He said that UNHCR being a protection agency was pushing the Pakistani government to be more flexible and accept the convention for integration and opt only for voluntary return of refugees.

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