PESHAWAR: Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tuesday signed a 12-point joint declaration on honourable and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their country.

The declaration was signed on the conclusion of the 30th Tripartite Dialogue among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UN refugee body on safe and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees. Pakistan was represented by Minister for States and Frontier Regions Shaharyar Khan Afridi in the moot, while Afghan delegation was headed by Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi and the world refugee body was represented by a representative in Pakistan Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, representative in Afghanistan Caroline Van Burn and others.

The three sides agreed under the accord to extend tripartite agreement on return of Afghan refugees. The agreement will need approval from the federal cabinet of Pakistan.

Participants of the moot praised Pakistan’s hospitality for Afghan refugees over the years and urged the world community to come forward to help the refugees. The participants expressed concern over decrease in the voluntary repatriation grant provided to Afghan refugees and urged the international community to increase the cash grant to its previous level (approximately $400 per individual).

It was agreed that the principle of voluntary repatriation will be upheld and conducive environment will be provided to them to return with dignity. The participants also praised the efforts of the UNHCR and other partners to promote targeted development interventions in Priority Areas of Return and Reintegration (PARRs) and called on the international community and development actors to support this important initiative.

Shaharyar Afridi said discussions were held in detail on the issue of Afghan refugees and it was agreed to ensure respect of the refugees and address their concerns and issues. He said the Pakistani and Afghan leadership desire amicable solution to the issue of Afghan refugees repatriation and both countries are cooperating with each other. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan also has taken steps to facilitate the Afghan refugees and under the same spirit 1.4 million Afghan refugees have been allowed to open bank accounts in Pakistan.

Mr Afridi said 68 percent Afghan refugees have already integrated with mainstream Pakistani population, while 32 percent are living in camps. He said it was unfortunate to note that 85 percent refugees worldwide were being looked after by developing countries, including Pakistan. He said decision about granting Pakistani citizenship to Afghan refugees will be taken after consulting all the parties.

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