IRIN | Briefing: The right way forward for Afghan refugees?
As a meeting of representatives of the Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani governments and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) opened to discuss a new strategy for dealing with the most protracted refugee crisis in the world, NGOs working in Afghanistan raised a number of questions about the new approach.
The so-called Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, to support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration ad Assistance to Host Countries is an agreement between the three governments on a way forward for the 2.7 million Afghans registered as refugees in Iran and Pakistan; the estimated 2.4-3.4 million unregistered Afghans living in the two countries; and the nearly 6 million Afghans – one quarter of its population – who have returned from exile to very difficult circumstances. (See IRIN’s recent In-Depth look at the realities on the ground).
The two-day meeting in Geneva, which started on 2 May, invited international stakeholders – donors, diplomats, international organizations, aid agencies and others – to endorse the new approach, at a cost of nearly US$2 billion, which seeks to improve conditions in communities of origin in Afghanistan to encourage returns while supporting communities which host Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, and providing Afghans in exile with skills training to help them upon their return to Afghanistan.
One key component of the plan’s implementation is to improve up to 48 areas of high return in Afghanistan by creating “model villages” through coordinated community-based development: building schools, clinics, water canals, providing access to land and shelter, and creating livelihood opportunities. The goal is to improve the quality of life of returnees to the levels enjoyed by their local counterparts and to create an environment in which refugees are more willing to return to their areas of origin.