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Message from UNHCR to Pakistan: Not All Refugees from Afghanistan are Terrorists

Afghans in Pakistan are the second-largest refugee population in the world, most having fled the Soviet invasion in 1979

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U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi talks to an Afghan refugee woman during his visit to the UNHCR's Repatriation Center in Peshawar, Pakistan, June 23, 2016. Image source-VOA
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  • U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi made remarks in Pakistan on the last leg of his three-nation trip
  • Amid other refugee problems, the world has lost sight of the plight of millions of Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran
  • About 6,000 Afghans have returned home this year from Pakistan, compared with nearly 60,000 last year during the same period

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN

The United Nations dismissed assertions made by Pakistan that Afghan refugees have become a source of terrorism in the country. They urged the government of the country “not to adopt rushed solutions” for sending the displaced population back to Afghanistan.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi made remarks in Pakistan about the last leg of his three-nation trip, which included Iran and Afghanistan, to remind the international community of the importance of solving the protracted Afghan refugee crisis.

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U.N. officials say that amid other refugee problems, the world has lost sight of the plight of millions of Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran.

Dwindling foreign assistance and rising terrorist attacks, they say, have also resulted in a concerted push from the Pakistan government to repatriate about 3 million Afghan refugees, including an estimated 1 million undocumented refugees.

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During his visit to a UNHCR voluntary repatriation center near Peshawar, Grandi addressed refugees’ fears that they are being made scapegoats after attacks or violent incidents in the country.

Afghan refugees. wikimedia commons
Afghan refugees. wikimedia commons

He said that in meetings with Pakistani leaders, he stressed that the whole refugee population must not be blamed or penalized for such actions.

“My appeal is that, not only to the authorities but also to the local population, refugees, as you know, are not terrorists. And if a few of them have been involved in criminal acts, then they should be prosecuted through due process, but according to law, like any other person,” the UNHCR chief said.

Calls for deportation

Afghans in Pakistan are the second-largest refugee population in the world, most having fled the Soviet invasion in 1979. But in recent months, public calls for their deportation have spiked in the wake of worsening relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“The complication is that very often refugees get entangled in security situations besides being a component of a very complex relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is what makes matters very often more complicated,” Grandi said.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Nafees Zakaria on Thursday reiterated Islamabad’s concerns that Afghan refugee camps in the country have become “safe havens for terrorists.”

“There are still about 3 million Afghans in Pakistan. Besides having a bearing on the economy, some of the refugee camps have become a security risk as terrorists and militants use the camps as hideouts,” he said.

Pakistan has not yet announced whether it will renew the legal status of Afghan refugees due to expire June 30, which has raised fears and uncertainty among the displaced population. Grandi, however, said that in his talks with Pakistani leaders, he made the case for extending the deadline.

UNHCR officials say the number of Afghans voluntarily returning home has sharply declined this year, mainly because of an intensified Taliban-led insurgency and deepening economic crisis in Afghanistan.

About 6,000 Afghans have returned home this year from Pakistan, compared with nearly 60,000 last year during the same period, according to the refugee agency.(VOA)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    People should not judge Afghans in such manner. They left their land in search of a better environment. Pakistan should proudly protect these refugees

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Hundreds Of Afghan Civilians Were Displaced Due To IS

Families in the province left their houses to escape violence from militants.

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Afghan National Army troops prepare for an operation against insurgents in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017.
Afghan National Army troops prepare for an operation against insurgents in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017. voa

In the last few weeks, at least 160 families have been displaced in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province by Islamic State attacks and fighting between U.S.-backed Afghan government forces and various militant groups.

More than 400 families have been displaced in the province in the past 10 months.

Families in the province say they left their houses to escape violence from militants.

“It’s been a few days that the IS militants have re-emerged, and a new round of firefighting has started. We had no choice but to seek refuge in deserts, under the government-controlled areas,” Khan Mohammad, a displaced man, told VOA.

Two hundred and fifty of the displaced families are from Nangarhar’s restive Pachir Wa Agam district where IS militants are active and fighting Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents over territory control.

IS militants attacked the Pachir Wa Agam district, destroyed many homes and captured more than two dozen local men last December, according to Afghan officials.

The district came under heavy airstrikes when the U.S. entered Afghanistan in pursuit of al-Qaida and the Taliban beginning in late 2001.

Attaullah Khogyani, the governor of Nangarhar’s spokesperson, downplayed the IS threat but confirmed a recent displacement of 160 families within Deh Bala district of the province.

“The reasons for displacement of these families are the current special military operation against IS militants,” he added.

An internally displaced Afghan woman who fled from recent conflict cooks bread outside a shelter in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017.
An internally displaced Afghan woman who fled from recent conflict cooks bread outside a shelter in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017. VOA

IS Reemergence

Afghan joint forces drove IS extremists out of the Pachir Wa Agam district in Nangarhar last December, and then hundreds of local men joined the central government’s security forces to help ensure that IS radicals cannot return to the area.

The Afghan Defense Ministry talked down any “serious” IS threat in the area, asserting that militants are trying to terrify unarmed locals at the behest of regional intelligence agencies. General Mohammad Radmanish told VOA that multiple military operations are under way in eastern Nangarhar province to remove remaining IS fighters.

“We will boost these military operations to provide security and wipe out the traitors. We are also starting to venture the new strategy and improvise our local army units once the areas are cleared,” Radmanish added.

During the past three years, more than 14,000 families were displaced internally in Nangarhad and only 8,000 of them have returned to their houses, Afghan authorities said.

Also read: Summary trials have no place in Afghan laws Behrooz Jahanya

Joint U.S. and Afghan forces’ air and land operations killed at least 100 IS militants in the province, Afghan authorities said Tuesday. (VOA)