Extension in stay of Afghan refugees

SHOWING continued goodwill towards Afghan refugees, the government has once again extended the stay of Afghan refugees for another six months till December 2016 while the UNHCR, in a bid to encourage the refugees to go back home voluntarily, has also announced to double the assistance package for the refugee families opting to return to their homeland. As far as increase in the incentives is concerned, it has neither succeeded in the past nor will achieve desired results in the future as due to unregulated border crossings, the refugees receive the repatriation benefits and again return to Pakistan. This process of recycling is taking place over the last few years but neither the government nor the UNHCR has the exact figures of the recyclers.
According to UNHCR, Pakistan is hosting 1.6 million registered and one million unregistered Afghans – a mammoth population that is bearing both socio economic as well as security impact on the country. It is in this context that we have seen in recent times growing demand in different circles for the early return of these refugees. In fact, the patience of both Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces is running thin on the matter. The woes of these Provinces are very much understandable as prolonged stay of Afghans has not only overburdened their resources and infrastructure but also made it difficult for them to maintain the security and law and order situation as there are proven facts that the Afghan nationals are not only involved in different criminal activities but also their camps are serving as bastion for the terrorists. It is because of brotherly relations with Afghanistan that despite all these concerns, the government extended stay of the refugees but the relevant stakeholders should not forget that the Afghans ultimately will have to go back to their homes, and the sooner the better will be for the Afghanistan itself. For this the Afghan government supported by the international community should create necessary pull factors especially establish such a conducive peaceful environment so that the refugees voluntarily go back and integrate into their society.

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