News ID: 209193
Published: 1243 GMT January 31, 2018

Pakistan recommends extension of stay for Afghan refugees

Pakistan recommends extension of stay for Afghan refugees

Pakistan’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions has recommended that Afghan refugees be given a five-month extension of their stay.

Aqdas Shaukat, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, said on Wednesday it had decided that permission to stay should be extended for another five months.

“The main reason for the extension is that it isn’t possible humanly to ask over one million people to leave at once,” the spokesman said.

“Our understanding is that another five months will give the refugees a good time to leave gradually.”

The cabinet would decide on the recommendation next week, he said.

The tense relations between Islamabad and Kabul led to concerns that Pakistan might retaliate by pushing back Afghan refugees, particularly since official permission to stay was only extended for 30 days at the beginning of this month.

The latest remarks, however, dispel fears that a large-scale repatriation back to violence-plagued Afghanistan was imminent.

 Some Afghan refugees have been sheltering in Pakistan for decades. They first fled across the border after the Soviet invasion of 1979.

Relations between the neighbors have deteriorated in recent years.

Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly accuse each other of sheltering their enemy insurgents.  The two sides also accuse one another of not doing enough to stop militants engaging in cross-border raids. Both sides, however, deny such an allegation.

Pakistan also  complains that the large number of refugees are a burden, and says that militants often hide among them.

Humanitarian agencies  however say Afghanistan could not cope with an influx of repatriated refugees at this time. Aid workers worry that the returnees are going back to a country in conflict and economic crisis, led by a government already struggling to maintain basic living standards.

The returnees will compete for resources with a record number of people who were internally displaced by fighting across Afghanistan over the past years. 



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