Pakistan says refugee repatriation plan not abandoned

Pakistan says refugee repatriation plan not abandoned

Islamabad extends time by 1 year for those Afghan refugees who entered Pakistan after return of Taliban

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA)- Pakistan on Wednesday disputed UN refugees agency Chief Filippo Grandi's claim that Islamabad has suspended repatriation of illegal foreigners, mainly Afghan immigrants.

"This is not true," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a statement.

"It may be noted that no such understanding has been given by Pakistan to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) including in recent meetings with the High Commissioner for Refugees," she said.

Grandi who paid a three-day visit to Islamabad this week, said in a statement on Tuesday that Pakistan had halted its repatriation plan.

"The IFRP (Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan) remains in place and is being implemented in an orderly and phased manner," Baloch added.

Islamabad extended time by one year for those Afghan refugees who entered Pakistan after the return of Taliban in 2021.

In last October, Pakistan announced the repatriation of Afghan refugees illegally staying in the country. The UNHCR opposed Islamabad’s move, saying the return must be voluntary and without any pressure.

So far, according to Interior Ministry statistics, over 500,000 Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland.

According to the latest UN figures, some 1.3 million Afghans enjoy the status of registered refugees, while another 880,000 have legal status to stay in Pakistan.

Pakistani officials claim that around 700,000 Afghans seeking asylum have trickled into Pakistan since the Taliban takeover nearly three years ago. However, only 75,000 have so far moved to other countries.

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