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‘Return of Afghans should be in line with international principles’

‘Return of Afghans should be in line with international principles’

PESHAWAR: UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk has emphasised that voluntary return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to their homeland should take place in line with international principles.

Talking to journalists here after visiting Voluntary Repatriation Centre (VRC) Chamkani on Thursday, he said that it was extremely important that return should take place in line with fundamental, international and protection principles.

“It is absolutely clear from our prospective that those Afghans, who do not want to avail return option, have the choice to continue their stay,” Volker Türk told a questioner.

He said that principle of voluntary return meant that refugees should be able to exercise that choice whether to return or not. He said that UN had received strong commitment from Pakistani authorities that only voluntary return would take place.

Volker Türk said that government of Pakistan had adopted a comprehensive policy in last February that included visa regime and also ensured that repatriation happened in line with the international principles. In that regard the UN agency would support people and government of Pakistan, he added.

About reduction of cash grant from $400 last year to $200 for every refugee, who wants to go back to their country, he said that situation was exceptional last year. He said that donor countries had assured the Afghan government last year to carry out development works in areas where return would take place.

Over 700,000 registered refugees and undocumented Afghans had returned to their homes from Pakistan last year. The government had fixed December 2017 as last date for the return of registered refugees. Return of refugees resumed early this month.

Volker Türk said that National Development Programme was underway in Afghanistan and the UN agency wanted to work with the Afghan authorities to ensure that the programme make difference and change in the life of returnees.

He said that Afghan government was facing its own challenges and insecurity was one of them. He said that people of Afghanistan hoped for better access to services, land allocation and employment opportunities.

Volker Türk said that strong commitment from the Afghan government was going to work and the UN agency would support initiatives on the development side.

Talking to returnees at the VRC, he said that they would be in touch with the communities back in Afghanistan and should get precise information about existing situation there.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2017

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