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Kabul launches campaign to bring refugees back

By Zulfiqar Ali 2016-07-17
PESHAWAR: As the tripartite commission consisting of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UNHCR is scheduled to meet in Bhurban near Murree on Tuesday to discuss the future of millions of refugees living in Pakistan, the Afghan government has launched a national campaign to persuade its citizens to return.

Afghanistan`s ministry of frontiers, nations and tribal affairs and its diplomatic mission in Peshawar have jointly launched the campaign titled Khpal Watan, Gul Watan (the grass is green in my land) which aimed at enticing their countrymen to end refugee life and return to Afghanistan.

The video message has been uploaded on social media ahead of the tripartite commission`s meeting scheduled to be held in Bhurban.

The Afghan government hasdirected its diplomatic mission in Pakistan to disseminate the campaign through media.

For the first time in the last two decades, the Afghan government has formally launched a campaign to encourage its citizens to abandon their refugee life in Pakistan.

Over 1.5 million registered refugees have been living in Pakistan.

`Afghanistan needs you (refugees) and requires your contribution in peace process in your country. Come back and take part in the reconstruction of Afghanistan,` said Peshawarbased Afghan consul general Dr Abdullah Waheed Poyan while reading out a message.

`You are our children and can`t forget you,` he added.

The envoy said the UNHCR was giving $400 cash assistance to every refugee on homecoming.

He said the assistance paid to the refugees was not suf ficient and therefore, the Afghan government would ask the UN agency to enhance it.Officials said the 27th meeting of the tripartite commission in Bhurban would discuss the future plan for the repatriation of refugees in Pakistan and registration of undoc-umented Afghans.

They said the commission would formally sign a six-month extension in stay to the Proof of Registration (PoR) card holders.

Afghan refugees and repatriation minister Hussain Alami Balkhi will lead his country`s delegation in the meeting and federal minister for states and frontier regions retired Lt-Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch Pakistan`s.

The UNHCR will be represented byitscountryhead,IndrikaRatwatte.

`Extension in the stay of registered refugees is tge top item on the agenda of the commission`s meeting,` said a source in the Safron ministry.

The Afghan government and UNHCR is stressing for the voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Pakistan recently extended the stay of Afghan refugees until December 2016. The source said Pakistani delegation was likely to take the plea that they were not ready to allow refugees to continue their stay beyondDecember 2016.

Islamabad has adopted a tough stand on the return of registered refugees and alleged that refugee camps were being used for subversive activities.

`Pakistan`s position is very clear.

It will ask the Afghan government to create conducive environment to facilitate the return of refugees to their country,` he said. The source said Islamabad would also ask for increase in cash assistance for the Afghans returning home.

He said the commission would take up the registration of undocumented Afghan nationals.

More than one million undocumented Afghan nationals are currently living in Pakistan. They`re being deported to their country.

The Safron ministry had chalked out a plan for the registration of undocumented Afghans last year.

However, the plan wasn`t executed due to the opposition of the interior ministry.