NEW YORK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan had served as a generous host to millions of Afghan refugees for the past four decades — the largest protracted refugee situation in the world.
“While financial support from the international community has waned, Pakistan’s hospitality has not,” the premier said while addressing the UN General Assembly’s first-ever Summit for Refugees and Migrants on Monday.
“Despite our modest resources, the people of Pakistan opened their hearts to their Afghan brothers and sisters,” Nawaz said, pointing out that the current Afghan refugees totalled 2.5 million.
The prime minister underscored the need for addressing the root causes of ongoing large-scale displacement and forced migration to ensure that the people fleeing their homes do not become victims of xenophobic attitudes and political expediency.
“Unless we resolutely put out the fires that have caused so much suffering, we will not be able to find a long-term solution to this crisis,” he said.
“We are meeting at a critical juncture, with the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes, reaching a record high and human suffering at an unprecedented level,” the prime minister told heads of states and high-level representatives in the spacious Assembly hall.
Noting that much of this displacement has neither been voluntary nor orderly, he said the people had been fleeing from desperate conditions of conflict, war or poverty. “These hapless people on the move deserve compassion and humane treatment.”
Pakistan and other developing countries, he pointed out, continued to be at the forefront of bearing the burden of large-scale global human displacements.
“Many of these protracted displacement situations have created complex political, socio-economic, security and environmental challenges for host countries and local communities,” the prime minister said.
“Pakistan supports the safe and dignified return of all Afghan refugees to their homeland, in a sustainable manner.
“We count on the active support of our Afghan brothers and international partners in creating a conducive environment, to achieve this outcome.
“We hope that the international community will step forward and provide necessary resources to UNHCR in a timely manner, to support the sustainable return and reintegration of the Afghan refugees.”
Referring to the adoption of the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,” the prime minister said that by doing so, “we are reaffirming our commitment to refugee and migrant communities across the world. The challenge now is to translate this noble initiative into reality.”
He said the international community must now forge a comprehensive global compact on the large-scale movement of refugees and migrants; a compact based on fair and equitable burden sharing; that aims to ensure that the displaced do not become victims of xenophobic attitudes and political expediency; a compact that provides greater avenues for legal migration; and takes a holistic view of the situation.
“Today, we have a similar opportunity; to help create a world, where no one is left behind, in our shared quest for human dignity.”