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Harassment of refugees

Miseries of Afghan refugees in the neighboring Pakistan continue unabated. Their problems doubled since December 16, 2014. Though, some connect woos of the refugees to the attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, however, these issues were not cropped up in the wake of the terror attack on the school, but earlier Afghans were also harassed and manhandled, with exception to those who had legal documents. But it is also true that now Afghan refugees, whether having legal documents or not, are grilled alike by police. This unhealthy practice had truly created anti-Pakistan sentiments. Living as a refugee is a tightrope walk in these days. The unprecedented circumstance forced many Afghans to return back to their homeland.

Aimed at addressing grievances of Afghan refugees, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Alimi Balkhi held meetings with Pakistani officials. Flanked by representatives of the refugees, the minister would also take the issue of refugees’ harassment up in meeting with officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The issue of repatriation would also be touched, but the real triumph lies in securing dignity and self-esteem of the refugees until they return back to Afghanistan. Despite claims of improvement in Afghan-Pak ties, there is no end in sight to miseries of the refugees. Several reports have made way to the surface in this connection but failed to propel the government to repatriate the refugees or resolve their problems.

Therefore, the Afghan government should also be blamed for harassment of the refugees because it had not taken the required steps to facilitate the returnees but relied mostly on backdoor diplomacy to extend their stay. Today or tomorrow, the government would have to repatriate the refugees. Hence, timely arrangements could avoid embarrassment. As a first step the leaders should introduce broad range of reforms, ensure good governance, protect human rights and counter narcotics in better manner to provide an environment to the returnees that they have dreamed of.

A good policy supported by an action plan would be a key to success because hollow statements could not bring any change. Withal, depending solely on the UNHCR is not a wise decision. Thus, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation should explore all avenues to do what really needed to resolve problems of the refugees and returnees. Similarly, the international community should also facilitate the UNHCR and the Afghan government to prepare the ground for repatriation of the refugees from the neighboring countries including Pakistan and Iran.

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