Reduced stipend affects pace of voluntarily return of Afghan refugees: NA told

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly was informed on Wednesday that the pace of Afghan refugees’ voluntarily return had affected due to reduction in stipend from $ 400 to $200 each refugee by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR).

Last year, as many as 640,000 Afghan refugees have been repatriated under the UNHCR’s Voluntary Return Programme, while this year so far 70,000 refugees have returned to their homeland and the figure is expected to reach 125,000 by the year end, Minister for States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch said during the question-hour.

“The decline in number of Afghan refugees repatriation is because of reduction in refugees’ stipend from $400 to $200, and the government of Pakistan will take up the issue with the UN agency,” he said.

He was of the view that prevailing law and order situation as well as deteriorating economic conditions besides unemployment issue in Afghanistan were some of the main reasons behind affected pace of the refugees’ return.

Answering a supplementary question, the minister said four to five percent Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, out of the total, were doing business to earn livelihood, while the rest were facing financial issues being migrants here.

Replying to another question, Abdul Qadir Baloch said launching polio campaigns in provinces was the responsibility of provincial governments, as far as the issue of access to Afghan refugee camps was concerned, all departments and non-governmental organizations were free to visit there for administering polio drops to children.

To yet another question, the minister said there was a relaxed visa policy for Afghan spouses of Pakistanis, Afghan students and skilled/talented workforce.