The Chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres, has called on the international community to help in the repatriation process of Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan and other neighboring countries.
This came after he visited refugee camps in Peshawar city and termed the Afghan refugee situation miserable.
“We still have Afghan refugees as the second largest refugee group after the Syrians. My appeal is to the international community to understand that this is not only the responsibility for Pakistan or Iran or other neighboring countries; it is a collective responsibility,” he said.
Guterres also urged the international community to support programs by the Afghan government to allow for the return of Afghan refugees to the country and to help them with education, health, land allocation and employment projects.
Pakistan’s Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Abdul Qadir Baloch, said they will start the process to register undocumented Afghan refugees on June 25, and that funds have already been allocated for this purpose.
“An office will be opened here by the Afghan government to ease travel for Afghans. It is traditional and common that Afghans and Pakistanis travel between the two countries through Chaman and Torkham borders, but I am sure that it will be good that the Afghan refugee repatriation (program) takes place through a respected process,” he suggested.
A number of Afghan refugees in Peshawar city said they are often harassed by Pakistan security forces and are therefore being forced to return to Afghanistan.
“Pakistani police have started harassing Afghan refugees for the past few months therefore I decided to return to the country with my family,” said Mohammadullah, an Afghan refugee in Peshawar.
Another Afghan refugee, Bibi Gul, said: “Although I face huge economic problems I have decided to return to Afghanistan with my family, in these hard times.”
According to UNHCR, there are more than 150,000 documented Afghan refugees in Pakistan; however, more than 100,000 of them are undocumented.