PESHAWAR - The UN's top official for refugees Tuesday urged the world not to "forget" the millions of Afghans forced to live for decades in Pakistan because of war in their homeland.

Pakistan has the world's second-largest refugee population, 1.5 million, most of them Afghans living for years in poor conditions in camps in the restive northwest.

Islamabad is keen for the refugees to return to Afghanistan, with more than 65,000 going back this year - a big jump on last year's 25,000.

On a visit to the camps in Pakistan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said Afghanistan, where security gains against the Taliban remain fragile and reversible, needed help to create an environment in which people returning could thrive.

"The attention of the international community has been focused dramatically on the Middle East crisis in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen," Guterres said, noting that Afghans were still the second largest refugee group in the world, after Syrians.

"My appeal is for the international community to understand that this is not only the responsibility for Pakistan or Iran or other neighbouring countries, it is a collective responsibility." Last week the UN said the number of people forced to flee war, violence and persecution has soared to a record 60 million, half of them children, and the situation was getting out of control. Afghan refugees have come under increasing pressure in Pakistan following a Taliban massacre at a school in December.

The number of Afghans crossing the border back to their homeland Afghanistan in the first four months of this year fleeing "pressure" from Pakistani officials was nine times higher than the same period last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Many of those who have returned have struggled to find work or even proper housing on reaching Afghanistan, with many setting up encampments on the fringes of Jalalabad, the largest city in southeast Afghanistan. Guterres urged Afghanistan's international partners to invest in the country to help build the economy so it could absorb the returnees.

Antonio Gutterres also called on Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan here at Governor's House on Tuesday and discussed matters pertaining to the Afghan refugees in Pakistan and their voluntary repatriation to homeland.

Indrika Ratwatte (Representative in Pakistan UNHCR), Jacques Franquin, (Head of UNHCR Sub-office Peshawar), Daisy Dell (Director of the Bureau for Asia and the Pacific) were also accompanying the high commissioner. Minister for SAFRON Abdul Qadir Baloach were also present in the meeting.

Antonio Gutterres acknowledged the efforts of Pakistan for hosting the world's largest refugee population for more than three decades. In response, Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan also appreciated UNHCR's continuous engagement with Pakistan over return of Afghan refugees.

Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan said that Pakistan took care of Afghan refugees as a sacred duty and their return with dignity was a priority of the government. He also mentioned that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, provincial government and chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are also committed and they strongly support the repatriation of Afghan refugees.

The governor said that there should be comprehensive repatriation plan for Afghan refugees. "The issue of repatriation of Afghan refugees is much focused, earmarked and it should be according to a comprehensive repatriation plan."

He appreciated the role UNHCR by saying that "UNHCR is one of those agencies, which is constantly coming across many conflicts in various parts of the world," and urged the international community to come forward and support Pakistan resolving this issue.

He said that Afghan government should facilitate the refugees on their return, as it will be helpful in their nation building process. The governor further mentioned that in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan positive mindset are working and the useful mechanism of business market should be promoted between the two countries.