The Afghan nationals will continue to study in Pakistani educational institutions beyond Dec 2017, which is presumed to be the final date for the voluntary repatriation of around 1.3 million registered refugees, if a summary put up to the federal cabinet in this regard gets approval, a senior official said here on Friday.
“The deadline announced for the repatriation of refugees will not affect the Afghan students’ education. They can carry on their studies beyond December 2017 provided that refugee student obtains certificate from the head of the education institution concerned,” said federal secretary ministry of State and Frontier Regions Mohammad Shehzad Arbab.
He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of skill development programme for Afghan and Pakistani youths at the Advanced Government Technical Training Centre here.
Officials said the proposed relaxation would facilitate thousands of refugee students.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Safron jointly launched the skill development programme for local and Afghan youths. They will get training in different trades.
Official says federal cabinet likely to okay a summary in this respect soon
UNHCR representative to Pakistan Indrika Ratwatte, chief commissioner for refugees Dr Imran Zeb, officials and students attended the inaugural ceremony.
The pilot project valuing Rs30 million will train over 700 unskilled youths up to the age of 25 years, who will get the required tools after completion of the programme.
The initial cost of the pilot project was Rs50 million but it was cut down to Rs30 million due to a lack of resources. As a result, the number of trainees came down to 700 from 1,000.
Mr. Arbab said the Safron had proposed to give relaxation to Afghan students to complete their education. The federal cabinet is likely to approve the summary this month, he added. The secretary said after the approval of the summary, if Afghan students had genuine certificates from their respective educational institutions, they would not be ‘harassed’. He said Pakistan would not opt for forced repatriation of registered refugees after the expiry of the deadline.
“There will be no forced repatriation. This is the official policy,” he said.
Mr. Arbab said around 400,000 registered and unregistered Afghan nationals returned last year. During a brief talk with reporters after the ceremony, the secretary said the Safron had prepared a comprehensive policy for the sustainable repatriation of refugees and future of Afghan nationals in Pakistan.
He said Afghan nationals had been divided into four categories. “Under the policy, which requires the federal cabinet’s approval, students will have to produce certificates of their respective institutions, investors will have to submit certificates from the Board of Investment to the interior ministry, Pakistani spouses will get long-term visas to continue their stay, and patients coming in from Afghanistan for treatment will also get relaxations,” he said.
UN agency head Indrika Ratwatte said the skill development programme would help Afghan youths reintegrate in own country on return.
He said the pilot project could be extended and that such initiatives needed support from the international community. The UN agency head said Pakistan had been hosting refugees for the last four decades that was commendable. He said the programme would empower youths and that was an investment in the future human capital of Afghanistan.
The UNHCR has implemented various skill development projects under the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas. A total of 3,500 Raha projects have been implemented across the country since 2009.
Published in Dawn January 21st, 2017