UNHCR urges Pak not to blame Afghan refugees for terrorism

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 neighbours.

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 centre outside Peshawar.

“I grew up here, but right now, the situation is not good,” said Manzoor Hamdard, 30, one of about 50 people at the centre. His family fled Afghanistan 35 years ago.

“We are poor people, and the police come and take money from us,” added Hamdard, who will move with his family of 15 to their native Baghlan province, in northern Afghanistan.

“We’ve run out of energy to deal with this.” Huma Zafar, a community leader in an Afghan refugee tribal council, added: “Whatever the relations are, good or bad, refugees should not be affected by it.”

Our Reporter from Peshawar adds:

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Chief Filippo Grandi on Thursday urged the international community to invest more in youth empowerment and education while the current emergencies have increased global concerns about additional risks faced by children, who do not have access to educational opportunities.

“The protracted refugee hosting countries need additional support and financial assistance for education,” said the UNHCR chief on the occasion of inauguration of completely renovated and rehabilitated Government Girls Primary School at Daag Behsud in Nowshera district on Thursday.

The UN Refugee Agency through funding of Germany rehabilitated the existing structure of the school by constructing eight additional classrooms, toilets and overhauling of the entire building, provision of furniture, sports goods and aid kits.

The UNHCR chief inaugurated a sustainable development goal (SDG) wall at the school and inspected different sections and classrooms of the school.

Addressing a gathering of students, teachers and their parents besides diplomats and educationalists and elites of the area, the UNHCR chief said investment in Pakistani and Afghan youth equals to investment in resilience, empowerment, stability and future of both countries.

“Emphasis on education particularly becomes vital at a time when children below the age of 18 constitute 51 percent of the total 65.3million globally displaced people,” he said.

Grandi assured that UNHCR is committed to support governments globally for implementation of SDG to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030.

The UNHCR chief lauded Pakistan’s generous support, assistance and warm hospitality to Afghan refugees for about 37 long years and Germany’s funding for renovation and improvement of facilities at Daag Behsud School.

Such kinds of education projects would help promote co-existence, stability and prosperity in the entire region, he said and appreciated the provincial government for allowing access to refugee children in public schools.

Atif Khan, Provincial Minister for Education said KP government has allocated Rs 111.52billion for education sector in budget 2016-17, adding the glory of the nations lied on the proper and quality education of its youth.

He said menace of terrorism and militancy can be eliminated with promotion of education.

In addition to boys, he said, his government was promoting girls education and the ratio of Government girls schools in future projects would be 70 percent in KP.

He appreciated UNCHR support for rehabilitation of existing education facilities in KP under RAHA programme.

Dr Imran Zeb, Commissioner for Afghan Refugees said education of Afghan refugees was vital to improve the future human capital of Afghanistan and its economic sustainable development and peace building.  -Reuters