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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
  • 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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    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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India Assists Syria By Rebuilding Brain Power

India silently extends support to Syria by rebuilding brain power

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India helps Syria
India is helping Syria by providing them medicinal and educational support. Wikimedia Commons

BY RANJANA NARAYAN

In the midst of the global focus on Syria with Turkeys latest offensive putting a big question mark on when the war will end, India has been quietly doing its bit to help the Syrian people cope, and also laying the foundation for its bright future.

It’s not just with medicines and food supplies that India has been helping the war-wracked country, but now with education too.

India is providing scholarships to 1,000 Syrian students to study in Indian universities, in undergraduate, post-graduate courses and even PhD.

Behind the move to provide scholarships to students from Syria is a hope that it would in the near future replicate the success stories from the African continent — where several current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents have attended educational or training institutions in India.

Syrian Ambassador to India Riad Abbas thinks so too, and is happy at the move by India.

“India supports Syria in many ways. They support Syrian people with medicine, with food, and this initiative has come from Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) for our students,” Abbas told IANS in an interview.

“Around 1,000 students have come to India to study in different universities and different courses – from Bachelors to Masters to PhD”

“Through this means India is assisting Syria by rebuilding the brain” – here he taps his head with a meaningful smile, “the brain of our people to plant education, science, and peace”.

According to Abbas, it is “the best thing to rebuild humanity and the people”.

Could these students one day become leaders in Syria too?

“Definitely they could become… They will come back to our homeland to rebuild Syria. And maybe they will be in the government in future. They will be like ambassadors of India to Syria and Arab countries,” he said.

Abbas said that all the Syrian students currently studying in India as part of the initiative “are satisfied by the nature of Indian people and the hospitality. They are happy in their universities, and are fully supported by the universities”.

India-Syria
India is providing scholarships to 1,000 Syrian students to study in Indian universities. Wikimedia Commons

The students are in 11 government and private universities across the country.

Abbas hopes the initiative will become a yearly feature. “I hope we make it every year, if it is possible.

“Because we look forward to enhancing our relationship with India, and we want all our students to get their certificates from India, because Indian education is of a higher level, compared to other countries — similar to the UK and US,” he added.

Another important factor is the students “feel at home” in India due to the cultural affinities.

“There are similar traditions between the two countries and because of this they feel at home.

“Most of our students will come back to our homeland to help their families, their people and to rebuild Syria,” he said.

Though the Western world sees Syria as badly battered and bruised, India sees Damascus as a strong country with a powerful military that has been able to determinedly push back the Islamic State militia, which a few years ago had threatened to overrun the country.

While a few years ago the West was loudly calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, today those voices have accepted his rule.

The Syrian envoy agrees. “Since a long time we have been fighting terrorism on behalf of the world. All terror groups came to Syria by Turkey’s support, they (Ankara) opened the border and facilitated their smuggling into Syria to kill our people and destroy our country.

“But now the last bit is left. We will defeat the terror groups on the ground, which get support from America. It is America which leads the army of mercenaries to fight against our army, and our army has defeated them. So now we are faced with the American army on the ground of Syria. This means that America’s project in the Middle East has failed, because of Syria,” the envoy told IANS.

India
Syria has cordial relations with India, since the independence of both countries. Both have similar views in many cases in the international arena. Pixabay

“They (the West and the US in particular) declared in the past, ‘We will change the government of Syria, we will change the president, we will do like this and that’… It was only talking for talking’s sake. Only they destroyed the country, but they couldn’t achieve their aims to change the Syrian government, and Syrian policy.

“And we are proud of our relation with BRICS countries, and especially with India. We highly appreciate India’s position and the Indian people, and we pray for God to save this country and its people.”

On Syria-India relations, he said: “We have cordial relations with India, since the independence of both countries. Both have similar views in many cases in the international arena.”

He praised India’s stand on the Syrian issue – on support for a political solution in Syria put forward by the people themselves, help realise the aspirations of the Syrian people and stand against any external intervention in Syria.

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“Because India has a strong voice in the international arena and many countries follow India’s position. And if all countries are like India, there would be no problem,” he added. (IANS)