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Pakistan to hold talks with Kabul, UNHCR for early return of refugees

ISLAMABAD: The government decided on Thursday to engage the Afghan government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in talks to devise concrete steps to ensure an early and sustained repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.

The decision was taken at a meeting co-chaired by Prime Minister`s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Abdul Qadir Baloch to formulate the modalities for effective repatriation of Afghan refugees and their management inside Pakistan.

The meeting was held in pursuance of the prime minister`s recent grant of a six-month extension to the registered Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan.

`The Ministry of Foreign Affairswill approach the government of Afghanistan bilaterally on the political and diplomatic levels whereas the Ministry of Safron will engage UNHCR and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, Afghanistan, to pursue and devise modalities for an early return of refugees as well as the possibility of shif ting them gradually to safe areas in Afghanistan where the Afghan government should establish settlements,` said a Foreign Office statement.

The meeting emphasised the importance of a meeting of the Tripartite Commission on Repatriation of Afghan Refugees, which would be held on July 19 in Pakistan. At the meeting Pakistani ministers and officials would discuss the matter in detail with the Afghan minister for refugees and repa-triations and UNHCR officials.

The meeting welcomed the announcement made by the UN`s commissioner for refugees during his recent visit to Pakistan regarding increase in the repatriation grant from $200 to $400 per individual for the registered Afghan returnees.

However, the participants felt that the incentive should be complemented by access to land, infrastructural development and provision of basic amenities like health, education and water facilities along with livelihood opportunities to sustain the refugees` repatriation and reintegration in Afghanistan.

The meeting directed an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Safron secretary to oversee the repatriation process and report on the activities involved on a monthly basis.-APP