ISLAMABAD: The representatives of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan along with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency called on the international community to support refugee-hosting countries and communities and provide development assistance to put an end to future Afghan displacement.
The development took place during the 6th Quadripartite Steering Committee Meeting held here with Minister for SAFRON Shehryar Khan Afridi in the chair. Minister of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) H.E Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi represented Afghanistan; Deputy Minister of Interior for Security and Disciplinary Affairs H.E Hossein Zolfaghari represented Iran, and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific Indrika Ratwatte represented UNHCR.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss developments and challenges in the implementation of the multi-year regional Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) to support voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries and to improve the implementation mechanisms and coordinated efforts.
All parties reaffirmed their commitment to the SSAR and agreed to extend it to the year 2021 and extendable as a valid framework for identifying and implementing solutions for Afghan refugees.
The representatives reiterated their call for joint advocacy and resource mobilisation to support the implementation of the strategy while all participants urged the development actors and other partners to help provide adequate, tangible and predictable support and assistance in support of the implementation of the SSAR.
The parties reaffirmed their assurance to the principle of voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity and called for joint efforts to create an environment conducive to phased, gradual and orderly voluntary return and sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan, as well as to continue to more appropriately support host communities in Iran and Pakistan, within the SSAR framework.
Addressing the participants, Minister SAFRON Shehryar Afridi said that the moot had once again highlighted the need for the world community to understand the pain of being displaced which cannot be fully removed despite consolation by the host countries of Iran and Pakistan.
“Though the recent war and conflict in Syria and Iraq, it seems the priorities of the global community are fast changing under the influence of world powers and Afghan refugee issues have been put on the backburner. Due to this new change in priorities, Pakistan and Iran have been left to suffer the most as both our states are already suffering due to certain sanctions by the US,” said the minister.
Speaking on the occasion, Indrika Ratwatte underlined the need for robust support of the international community in ensuring the sustainability of voluntary returns in Afghanistan and in providing tangible support to host communities in host countries.
“Despite challenges and emerging displacements globally, UNHCR equally advocates for supporting a protracted situation like Afghanistan. Sustainable return is linked to sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan. If the integration is not sustainable, people will remain on the move,” he added.
Further, Hossein Zolfaghari said that Iran has enhanced services for Afghan refugees, issued driving licenses, regularise parts of the population and has been issuing work visas.
He said that Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan needed more international support and the UNHCR needs to step up its efforts to urge the global community to fulfill their commitments made for the humanitarian cause of Afghan refugees.
Minister Balkhi concluded by suggesting an extension of time to accomplish SSAR goals which have not been able to be fulfilled due to a large number of migrants and refugees in Pakistan and Iran as well as insecurity in Afghanistan. “The need for SSAR continues to exist and I, therefore, call on the extension of the SSAR timeframe,” he said.