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World Refugee Day

By News Desk

June 25 2014

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) marked World Refugee Day on June 20. The theme of the day this year was, ‘Even one family torn apart by war is too many’.

Refugee boys and girls, wearing colours of the Afghan national flag, opened the commemoration ceremony in Karachi by singing the national anthems of Afghanistan and Pakistan at Avari Towers.

UNHCR’s incharge in Karachi, Muhammad Imran, quoted figures from the UNHCR report to highlight the alarming increase in the number of refugees worldwide. The report, titled ‘War’s Human Cost: UNHCR Global Trends 2013’, shows that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally-displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people. The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, in his message on World Refugee Day has called for an end to armed conflict, and has asked countries to provide support to those who have been forced to flee their homes.  Even one family torn apart by war is far too many, he said.

World Food Programme (WFP) representative Marit Fikke read out Ban Ki-moon’s message on the occasion. The UN secretary-general revealed that more than 50 million people were currently displaced by war and violence. Of these, 33.3 million are in their own countries while around 16.7 million are refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries.

In the last year alone, more than 10 million people were displaced. Every 15 minutes, one family was forced into flight. The conflict in Syria was one of the main reasons for this massive increase.

“For the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies, helping these people presents a special challenge as many are in conflict zones, where getting aid to them is difficult and where they lack the international protection norms afforded to refugees,” said Imran.

He added that by the end of 2013, Pakistan continued to host the largest number of refugees in the world (1.6 million), nearly all of whom were from Afghanistan. At the same time, voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan to Afghanistan has also been the largest in the world, with 3.8 million having been assisted by UNHCR to return home since 2002.

Afghanistan’s consul-general Shah Ahmed Saeed, in his address, also called upon the international community to stand up against wars to stop people from turning into refugees. “It has been decades that millions of my fellow countrymen have been living away from their homeland.” Saeed lauded the efforts of Pakistan for Afghan refugees and said that the people and government of Afghanistan will always be grateful for Pakistan’s hospitality. “Afghan people have always felt at home in Pakistan,” he said.

Saeed said that Afghanistan had seen much improvement in terms of infrastructure and security over last few years. He added, however, that the repatriation process has been slow because of rehabilitation issues and the shortage of long-term shelters in Afghanistan.

Saeed appealed to the Pakistan government to provide Proof of Registration (POR) cards to those refugees who have not been registered. “It will bring their identity on record and will entitle the refugees to privileges associated with the cards.” He also requested Pakistan’s security agencies to be kind to the refugees who travel from one province to another.

Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, lauded the efforts of the UNHCR and Afghan Consulate for their efforts for refugees in Karachi at the camp. “Our hearts go out to the people who have been displaced anywhere in the world.” Siddiqui said that 66,679 registered refugees were living in Sindh, which made up 4.1 per cent of the total 1.6 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan and the provincial government were extending support for their legal stay as well as supporting their induction into the community through various development schemes, he explained.

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan

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