Sindh CM urges UNHCR to expedite repatriation of Afghan refugee - Pakistan Today

Sindh CM urges UNHCR to expedite repatriation of Afghan refugee

KARACHI

STAFF REPORT

Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, said that Sindh had been host to registered and unregistered Afghan refugees for the past 37 years; but that, now, the process of their repatriation to Afghanistan ought to be expedited for certain reasons including the law & order situation in the province.

He made these remarks while talking to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Indrika Ratwattee, who headed a delegation to the CM House today. The delegates included Yua Deputy Chief UNHCR, Imran Zaib Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees in Islamabad, Johann Siffointe deputy Representative of UNHCR, Younis Sahibzada Head of UNHC Field Office Karachi, Ghazanfar Ali Agha Commissioner Afghan Refugees, and Syed Bilal Agha Field Associate UNHCR Field Office Karachi.

The chief minister was assisted by IG Sindh AD Khawaja, Principal Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch and Secretary Home Department Shakeel Mangnejo.

The chief minister said a large number of Afghan refugees had settled in the province of Sindh, particularly in the Karachi megalopolis and its adjoining areas in the last 37 years.

“Sindh government is hosting them with open heart and spending a lot of the resources meant for our people on them,” he said, adding that: the province of Sindh had been facing the worst possible law and order situation for many years now, although things had improved lately after the state took drastic measures by launching a targeted operation.

He said the highest forum for the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in the province, the Apex Committee, had decided on the repatriation of all illegal immigrants, including Afghanis. The federal government was approached by the Sindh administration to expedite the process of repatriation, he said, but the UNHCR managed to get the state to provisionally extend the validity of Proof of Registration cards at its western border until March, 2017.

Murad Ali Shah urged the UNHCR to take necessary measures and make arrangements for the repatriation of Afghanis, so that the provincial government could move forward in implementing the decisions taken by the Apex Committee meetings.

UNHCR, Mr Indrika Ratwatee, said more than 60,000 Afghan refugees lived in Sindh, mostly in Karachi and its surrounding areas; the chief minister disagreed with this point. He said that the repatriation process was in progress and everyday around 2000 Afghan nationals returned to their homeland. He added that around 350,000 refugees had returned to Afghanistan from KPK; a significant number had been repatriated from Punjab. He said only 32000 Afghans have so far been repatriated from Sindh.

Regarding the large number of repatriated refugees from Khyber Pakhtunkwa, the UNHCR chief said that the people there usually remained in touch with their people back in Afghanistan. Moreover, they live closer to Afghanistan there. As far as Sindh is concerned, he said, Karachi has vast employment opportunities and the refugees are far away from the border with their country.

The chief minister, Murad Ali Shah, said that a large number of unregistered Afghan nationals lived in Sindh. He urged the UNHCR to get them registered so that Sindh government could know who is who and where they live. “We spend on their food {subsidy}, they are using our utilities and even their children are receiving education in our government schools” he said. As the host, he said, the Sindh community had taken proper care of Afghan nationals; in return, however, “our people have suffered a lot in the shape of terrorism – you know well and I don’t want to go into the details,” he said.

The UNHCR chief said that $175 million had been allocated for education and health of the refugees. Out of the sanctioned amount, $30 million have been earmarked for Sindh, he added.

“You can spend this amount on the education, health and other social services of the Afghan refugees living in your province,” he told the chief minister.

The chief minister directed the secretary Home Department to coordinate with UNHCR in the registration of all Afghanis living in the province and to make arrangements for their repatriation with the coordination and support of the UN’s refugee agency.



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