Afghan refugees in Pak don’t want to return home

A UNHCR Pakistan spokesperson said there are currently 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

Updated: Aug 13, 2012, 15:06 PM IST

Peshawar: Afghan refugees in Peshawar are not willing to return to their country, despite the announcement of a December 31, 2012 deadline by the federal government.

"Our people are more comfortable here and we have established our businesses here... to leave Pakistan is impossible for us," The Express Tribune quoted Sardar Wali, who hails from Afghanistan`s Ningahar province, as saying.

Wali, who works at a carpet shop, said he was not ready to leave Pakistan, as it has been a homeland for his generation of people.

Wali`s family migrated to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in 1980 during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and settled at the Shamshato Camp.

"I was born and brought up in K-P, this is my hometown," he said, adding that he felt like an alien when he visited Afghanistan.

According to UNHCR Pakistan spokesperson Dunya Aslam Khan, there are currently 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and an estimated million are living unregistered. She said around seven million have willingly returned to Afghanistan so far.

"Afghan refugees that take part in the voluntary repatriation programme are given 150 dollars per person in order to cover transportation costs and initial costs of settling back home," Khan said, adding that each family will also be given a card that guarantees them financial aid in Afghanistan.

Afghan Refugees Commissioner Syed Zaheerul Islam said every Afghan living in Pakistan after December 31 would be doing so illegally.

District Coordination Officer Javed Marwat said the government, the Afghan Commissionerate and UNCHR would hold a meeting soon to decide the future of the refugees and find a mutually beneficial way to return Afghans to their country.