PESHAWAR: Screening of Afghan refugees from 21st
PESHAWAR, June 9: The NWFP Governor Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah on Saturday said that screening of Afghans staying in Pakistan would start from June 21 to distinguish legal refugees from illegal immigrants and that one hundred teams being assigned this task would also include UNHCR representatives.
Talking to a United Nations High Commision for Refugees (UNHCR) delegation led by Ms Erika Feler, the governor said that Pakistan's elaborate stand on Afghan refugees was communicated to the UN secretary general, besides UNHCR's high-ups, said a handout.
Recalling the fact of 90 per cent territory in Afghanistan being peaceful, he said that after 1995 those Afghans who had come to Pakistan did not fall in the category of refugees. Lt-Gen Iftikhar said that since September 2000, the inflow of Afghans into Pakistan had increased manifold. He observed: "Since our own national economy is not good enough to shoulder the burden of such aliens, therefore, Pakistan has decided to repatriate them." However, he assured that genuine refugees would not be bothered.
"1.2 million Afghan refugees are registered with us, while an additional 0.7 million have newly arrived," the governor observed, adding, "Right now we are starting screening of all such new arrivals in camps around Peshawar and would continue it at all costs." He asked the UNHCR delegation to nominate their representatives for the screening teams because further delay would not be affordable.
Mr Shah said that some of the newly-arrived illegal Afghan immigrants were indulging in heinous crimes like drug smuggling, and other immoral activities. He appreciated the world community for its understanding of Pakistan's stand on Afghan refugees.
The governor said that even the UN wanted that such Afghans should be kept in camps inside Afghanistan. He said that if camps were established inside Afghanistan, the burden of refugees on Pakistan would lessen a great deal. He hoped that through screening 65 to 70 per cent illegal Afghans immigrants would be repatriated.
He said there was no ban on the UN or any other agency to provide help to Afghans in their camps. He remarked that those illegal Afghan immigrants running business in Hayatabad or other posh areas should better move their businesses and trade activities back to Afghanistan. He said that a procedure was being hammered out to allow only the legal traders to pursue commercial interests in Pakistan. Turning down a proposal to exempt the Nasir Bagh refugee camp from screening, the governor said that due to the refugees' presence at Nasir Bagh, proposed constructions in the area had got delayed.
The governor reiterated that screening work in Nasir Bagh would also start positively on June 21. He said that a procedure was being chalked out for refugees intending to visit Afghanistan for a short period. "All such refugees would be required to take permission before leaving, so that on their return they should not face any problem nor any other person could enter Pakistan using their documents," the governor said.
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