UN refugee chief urges world not to ‘forget’ Afghans in Pakistan

UN refugee chief urges world not to ‘forget’ Afghans in Pakistan

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Afghanistan needed help to create an environment in which people returning could thrive.



By (AFP)

Published: Tue 23 Jun 2015, 7:51 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:59 PM

The head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres looks on during a visit to the UNHCR repatriation centre in Peshawar. -AFP

Peshawar - The UN’s top official for refugees on Tuesday urged the world not to “forget” the millions of Afghans forced to live for decades in Pakistan because of war in their homeland.

Pakistan has the world’s second-largest refugee population, 1.5 million, most of them Afghans living for years in poor conditions in camps in the restive northwest.

Islamabad is keen for the refugees to return to Afghanistan, with more than 65,000 going back this year — a big jump on last year’s 25,000.

On a visit to the camps in Pakistan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Afghanistan, where security gains against the Taleban remain fragile and reversible, needed help to create an environment in which people returning could thrive.

“The attention of the international community has been focused dramatically on the Middle East crisis in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen,” Guterres said, noting that Afghans were still the second largest refugee group in the world, after Syrians.

“My appeal is for the international community to understand that this is not only the responsibility for Pakistan or Iran or other neighbouring countries, it is a collective responsibility.”

Last week the UN said the number of people forced to flee war, violence and persecution has soared to a record 60 million, half of them children, and the situation was getting out of control.

Afghan refugees have come under increasing pressure in Pakistan following a Taleban massacre at a school in December.

The number of Afghans crossing the border back to their homeland Afghanistan in the first four months of this year fleeing “pressure” from Pakistani officials was nine times higher than the same period last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Many of those who have returned have struggled to find work or even proper housing on reaching Afghanistan, with many setting up encampments on the fringes of Jalalabad, the largest city in southeast Afghanistan.

Guterres urged Afghanistan’s international partners to invest in the country to help build the economy so it could absorb the returnees.


More news from WORLD