UNHCR resumes screening of Afghan refugees on Monday
Islamabad, Sept 2, IRNA -- The UNHCR and Pakistan will resume screening of Afghan refugees in two camps near Peshawar on Monday (September 3) after suspending it over a controversy with the government over deportations.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has taken this decision after it gets assurances from Pakistan that no more Afghans would be deported during the screening process.
The UNHCR suspended its participation in the screening of Afghan refugees on Friday, claiming Pakistan had broken an agreement by sending refugees to Afghanistan.
Pakistani foreign office spokesman Riaz Ahmed Khan denied reports that Afghan refugees have been thrown out. He said only new arrivals had been returned to Afghanistan and that Pakistan was not in a position to accept new refugees from the war-torn country.
The UNHCR will resume the joint screening process in Jalozai and Nasir Bagh following a meeting with senior Pakistan officials during which the question of deportations was discussed and resolved, a UNHCR statement has said.
UNHCR spokesman Yusuf Hassan said yesterday that the UNHCR had confirmed reports that about 28 Afghan families had been deported and handed over to Taliban authorities at Torkham border. They were taken from Jalozai refugee camp.
The agreement between the UNHCR and Pakistan under which the joint screening program began calls for Afghans found to be in need of protection to be granted a temporary legal status to reside in Pakistan. They will be transferred to the refugee camps and will be helped by the UNHCR.
Afghans whose cases are rejected will have the right to appeal, but once a final decision is made, they would have to return home.
Particularly vulnerable rejected persons will be allowed to remain in Pakistan until conditions in their villages improve, the UNHCR statement added.
The UNHCR-Pakistan agreement to screen Afghan refugees in Jallozai and other camps was reached in early August after protracted talks because of the two sides' conflicting goals.
Pakistan refuses to accept new Afghan refugees, saying it already hosts more then two million and does not have the resources to cater for more.
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