LAHORE - Speakers at a workshop here Friday stressed the need to empower the Afghan refugees and their host communities in Pakistan through skill development to enable them to play a positive role in the socio-economic development of Pakistan; while enabling the refugees to make a positive participation in Afghan development on return to their country, under the Afghan Refugees Management and Repatriation Strategy.

They said that the skill development should focus on the Afghans' access to livelihood programmes, employment and decent work opportunities.

The workshop was organised by ILO and UNHCR to seek inputs to address "decent work deficits of workers, including women/children, from Afghan refugees and hosting communities." Despite return of over 5.7 million Afghan refugees to their homeland since 2002, there are still over 1.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, including 202,832 Afghans who are residing in various districts of the Punjab after migration from their home country.

Dr. Saifullah Chaudhry, Senior Programme Officer of the ILO, said on the occasion that a consultative process had started in May 2011 under ILO and UNHCR's joint collaboration to develop a multi-year project with focus on voluntary repatriation. After commissioning of two baseline research studies in Quetta and Peshawar, it was felt that similar work be initiated in Punjab and Sindh as well.