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November 8, 2018

Pakistan, Afghan officials discuss return of refugees


November 8, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan Wednesday held lengthy deliberations to find ways and means to ensure that the thousands of Afghan refugees still in Pakistan can return in a dignified, gradual and time bound manner.

Time and again Pakistan has tried to ensure their return together with the UN agencies but each time this was put off on request from the Kabul government and deadlines would roll over.

Wednesday’s meeting between the two sides was the second meeting of the Refugee Working Group under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Stability (APAPPS) at the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron).

“Both sides deliberated on the ways to enhance mutual cooperation for a dignified, gradual, time bound and complete return of the Afghan nationals to their country. It was also decided to observe the agreed timelines and procedures for repatriation of various categories of these persons to Afghanistan,” said the Foreign Office.

The first meeting was held during the visit of Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua to Kabul on July 22 for the inaugural session of the APAPPS.

The Afghan delegation was headed by Deputy Minister for Afghan Ministry of Refugee Affairs Dr Alema. Mohammad Aslam, Secretary Safron, led the Pakistan side in the meeting, which discussed matters related to Afghan refugees and other Afghan nationals illegally residing in Pakistan.

“During the meeting, the two sides signed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for streamlining the working of the group among the two concerned ministries on a regular basis in future.

The APAPPS working groups work on the principle of direct, regular contact among relevant ministries in both countries, under the umbrella of the politico-diplomatic working group co-chaired by the two ministries of foreign affairs,” said the Foreign Office.

Highlighting the importance of the APAPPS for furthering bilateral relations, the two sides agreed to optimally utilise the forum to deepen engagement, communication and understanding for early return and resettlement of Afghan refugees and to promote cooperation under various working groups of the framework. The next meeting of the APAPPS working group on refugees will be held in Kabul at a mutually convenient date.

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