ISLAMABAD    -   Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have agreed to continue the voluntary repatriation of the Afghan refugees, their sustainable reintegration in their home country and support for the host countries.

The agreement was reached at an informal session of informal Quadripartite (Q4) meeting held at Geneva on the sidelines of 70th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme, said a message received here on Friday.

The Q4 group, formally and in principle, agreed that Global Refugees Forum being held in December should showcase the good work done for the Afghan refugees. It was concurred that the shortcomings that still existed in the management of Afghan refugees’ affairs should be plugged. The meeting also agreed in principle for “Support Platform” that would include additional players, expected to contribute to this cause for both the host and home countries.

The Q4 was attended by Minister for SAFRON and Narcotics Control Shehryar Khan Afridi, Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Syed Hussain Alemi Balkhi and UNHCR Regional Director.

Shehryar Afridi informed participants of the meeting about Pakistan’s immense contribution in terms of hosting the Afghan refugees for decades. He said that Pakistan had been spending billions of dollars on Afghan refugees’ health, education, protection, documentation, and other welfare initiatives.

He said that the latest initiative taken to facilitate the Afghan refugees was to allow them to open bank accounts. “Pakistan doesn’t seek praise for its commitment to the welfare and wellbeing of Afghan refugees. Pakistan needs acknowledgment and commitment from other partners in burden and responsibility sharing,” he added. Hussain Alemi Balkhi, from Afghanistan, said that he supported the return of all Afghan refugees and for their reintegration in their homeland. He told the participants that the Afghan government was developing 15-20 areas in the country to make them worth living for refugees. “We are also thinking to offer an incentive for the returnees. We are hopeful that the Global Refugee Forum meetings due in December in Geneva this year would go a long way in this regard,” Balkhi said.

Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rehmani Fazli said that only words and commitments were not enough and some practical and bold steps were required to ensure the return of refugees. “To make these meetings meaningful, a group of experts should be constituted, representative of all the countries, so that they could do the ground work, identify gaps, hold initial discussions and present recommendations to this forum,” Fazli said. He said that the first priority should be the provision of security and shelter to the refugees returning to Afghanistan while the second should be the provision of health and education facilities to them. “And only then we may see a progress,” he concluded.