ISLAMABAD - Pakistan, Afghanistan and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday unanimously agreed on a 12-point joint declaration on safe and honorable repatriation of Afghan Refugees.

The declaration issued at the conclusion of 30th Tripartite Dialogue.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR expressed concern at the decrease in the voluntary repatriation grant provided to the Afghan refugees and pleaded the international community to increase the cash grant to its previous level (approx. USD 400 per individual).

Minister for SAFRON Shehryar Afridi represented Pakistan while Afghanistan delegation was headed by Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR), of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, UNHCR was represented by representative for the UN refugee agency in Pakistan, Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR representative in Afghanistan Caroline Van Burn and others.

According to the 12-point communiqué, the three parties expressed their commitment to extend the existing Tripartite Agreement Governing the Voluntary Repatriation of Afghan Citizens Living in Pakistan, pending approval by the Federal Cabinet of the Government of the Pakistan.

The three parties reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the principle of voluntary repatriation, in safety and dignity, under the Tripartite Agreement; and urged enhanced efforts to create an environment conducive to voluntary return and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, and to continue supporting the host communities in Pakistan, within the framework of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR); Expressed concern at the decrease in the voluntary repatriation grant provided to the Afghan refugees, and encouraged the international community to increase the cash grant to its previous level (approx. USD 400 per individual).

Pakistan, Afghanistan, UN concerned over reduction in grant

They also appreciated the progress achieved by the Government of Afghanistan in the development of the Policy Framework and Action Plan; the decision to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) which reaffirms the commitment to include refugee returnees in the National Priority Programmes, particularly the Citizen’s Charter; as well as the enactment of the Presidential Decree on Land Allocation.

The parties called for continued support for the implementation of these initiatives; and requested that progress of these initiatives is shared with Afghan refugees in Pakistan, including through an awareness raising programme, in order to enable them to make an informed decision to voluntarily return, with the facilitation of and in coordination with the host Government.

Later, in a media interaction Minister SAFRON Shehryar Afridi said that it’s a big day for Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR and for Afghan refugees that detailed deliberations were conducted to ensure respect and address their concerns and issues.

“UNHCR plays a key role in facilitating this dialogue. Prime Minister Imran Khan also has taken steps to facilitate the Afghan refugees and under the same spirit 1.4 million Afghan refugees are allowed to open bank accounts,” he added.

Afridi said that 68 per cent of Afghan refugees are already integrated with mainstream Pakistani population while 32 per cent were living in camps.

He said that it is unfortunate to note that 85 percent refugees worldwide are being looked after by developing countries including Pakistan and it’s about time that the developed world need to come forth and play their role according to their international commitments and UN Conventions.

On the issue of giving nationality to Afghan refugees born in Pakistan, the Minister said that the matter would be debated by all parties and then a decision would be taken after consensus.

Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi stated on the occasion that he had observed positive signs in bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan after the PTI government took reigns and President Ghani’s upcoming visit to Pakistan would be significant in resolving major issues and we look forward to it.

“Afghan government remains committed to voluntary and dignified return of Afghan refugees for sustained reintegration. In addition to our efforts, we made a plea to UNHCR to increase cash grant to enable Afghan refugees to return to their homeland,” he said.

He said that since year 2001, 9.6 million Afghan refugees have returned home and over three million refugees returned in past few years.

“In 2016, 600,000 returned from Pakistan. Land allocation, affordable housing is also a part of our package for returning refugees. Last year, Presidential decree was enacted for land distribution among returnees. We are raising capacity to absorb another 300,000 returnees in next few years,” he added.