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UNHCR PAKISTAN

Editorial: Where do refugees fit in the peace process?

The Afghans have suffered multiple wars and invasions as they endured foreign actors fight for their own vested interests through the use of proxies over the years, resulting in a steady stream of refugees escaping violence and poverty to seek sanctuary in other lands. Given that the world, including the former and present superpowers, have contributed to the countless challenges faced by us, it is only fair that they play their part to help solve our problems now. Last year, several donor countries (including the US) pledged to do all they could to help in the repatriation of Afghan refugees — with all the dignity and respect that these displaced families deserve — and yet, it seems as if the global village keeps forgetting about the plight of the second-largest refugee population in the world, along with all the promises it has made to them. In a bid to attract the donors’ attention, Pakistan hosted a conference on Feb. 17 along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the status of Afghan refugees in the country as a timely reminder to donor nations and international aid agencies to live up to their promises. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressing the international conference, jointly organized by the Pakistan government and UNHCR, titled 40 years of Afghan Refugees’ Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity, lauded Pakistan’s compassion for Afghan refugees, acknowledging that Pakistan remained committed to hosting its Afghan brothers despite dwindling global aid to refugees. The Afghan-hosting countries have received financial assistance from aid agencies for welcoming the refugees, meaning they haven’t been compassionate hosts merely out of their sheer interest in serving humanity and pleasing God but had some material benefits. It seems reasonable to fawn over Pakistan’s decades-long solidarity; however, if the high presence of Afghan refugees in our neighboring countries – whether Pakistan or Iran – have created somewhat problems for the host communities, the refugees have also played a great role in the economic development of these countries. It’s because our refugees have established huge businesses which directly contribute to the relevant host countries’ economies; however, it’s time that they were allowed to legally transfer their education, assets and businesses to Afghanistan against the backdrop of reports that a US-Taliban peace deal is going to be inked within a couple of weeks. It’s highly crucial that the issue of the migrants’ homecoming must be conferred on during the current talks taking place among Afghanistan’s various stakeholders. It’s especially relevant since one cannot help but wonder: where do the millions of Afghan refugees fit in this so-called peace plan and are the aid agencies delivering on their promises? The repatriation of Afghan refugees is directly linked to peace in Afghanistan because it facilitates a platform for their return. Also, the repatriation process should be turned into a normal process and the repatriates should be given the free will to return spontaneously and voluntarily.

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