Friday, June 24, 2016

U.N. refugee chief urges Pakistanis not to label Afghan refugees 'terrorists'

The United Nations refugee chief on Thursday urged Pakistanis not to blame Afghan refugees for terrorism in their country, amid growing public calls for their deportation and worsening relations between the two neighbors.

Warning that the roughly 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan risked becoming a "forgotten" crisis, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on the international community to invest more funds to help them.

"My appeal is that, not only to the authorities but also to the local population: refugees as you know are not terrorists," Grandi said during a visit to a repatriation center outside the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar.

Pakistani officials have recently hinted at the possibility of deporting Afghan refugees, amid tense relations with Kabul.

A decision to renew their legal status by June 30 has not yet been announced, although past deadlines have been extended at the last minute.

The number of Afghans voluntarily returning home is down sharply this year as violence worsens in Afghanistan, where the government and its U.S. allies are fighting a stubborn Taliban insurgency.

So far, about 6,000 Afghans have chosen to return home from Pakistan in 2016, compared with 58,211 voluntary repatriations last year, according to the UNHCR.

At the repatriation center, refugees wiped the sweat from their faces as they waited in sweltering heat for their cases to be processed, a necessary step before they can set off on the journey home.

Many Afghan refugees say they are being pressured to go back by the authorities, amid worsening diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. - Read More

U.N. refugee chief urges Pakistanis not to label Afghan refugees 'terrorists'


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