The Government of Pakistan needs to initiate the process of national refugee law in the light of cabinet decision of February 2017 for enhanced protection of refugees living in Pakistan was the major recommendation of participants of the national consultations on “contemporary challenges and durable solution of Afghan refugees’ issues” organized by Society for Human Rights and Prisoners’ Aid (SHARP-Pakistan) in Peshawar in collaboration of ICMC and government of Pakistan. The participants highly appreciated the generosity and hospitality of the government and people of Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for nearly four decades despite not being party to the refugee convention.
Mr. Rustam Shah Mohamand, the former- Ambassador to Afghanistan underscored the key issues of Afghan refugees in the light international humanitarian context. He highlighted the historical perspectives of Afghan refugee crises and emphasized on adopting the approach of Turkish government where integration of 2.5 million refugees is under consideration to avoid long term burden on the Turkish nation. He suggested a pragmatic approach should be adopted with regard to issuing POR cards so that refugees live with dignity and peace of mind. He said that harassment and pushing refugees is creating negative impact within Afghanistan which is not in the interest of Pakistan in the region.
The participants stressed for the increased support of international community in terms of resources to achieve the goal of durable solutions with special focus on the resettlement, regional dialogues and effective youth engagement to help settle the protracted refugee situation in Pakistan. The international community must come forward to share the burden which Pakistan is shouldering for the last four decades through support of government and hosting communities. The workshop highlighted the importance of practical steps towards lasting solutions for the management of Afghan refugees by adopting a pragmatic approach.
Chairman SHARP-Pakistan, Syed Liaqat Banori, while highlighting the purpose of the consultations stated that Pakistan stands tall in terms of hosting refugees for such a long period. The contribution of the government and people of Pakistan is exemplary because Pakistan is a developing country with multiple issues but still respecting the international obligations and supporting a large refugee population for four decades. He said that this is an international issue and needs to be recognized and supported consistently through burden sharing such as support of hosting communities in massive development projects, human capital and youth empowerment until the issue is settled permanently. He emphasized that media should play an effective role in highlighting the issues and challenges of the vulnerable refugee population to help harmonize the peaceful coexistence of both the communities so that the decade’s long sacrifices of people of Pakistan shall not go in waste.
Mureen Master, Protection Associate UNHCR presented UNHCR’s statistics of Afghan refugees residing in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. She said that more than 300,000 refugees repatriated to Afghanistan during 2016 and over 40,000 in 2017. Mr Shahan Abbas from ICMC highlighted the need for enhanced collaboration, protection and better livelihood opportunities for Afghans refugees in Pakistan.