Many Afghan Refugees in Pakistan Reluctant to Return
|IRC's George Rupp (center) and George Biddle (left) assist in blanket distribution for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. (Photo: Alan Manski)|
The IRC’s president George Rupp and senior vice president George Biddle took part in a blanket and winter clothing distribution at Shalman Camp in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province Tuesday, as refugees reluctant to return home, prepare for the winter.
Concerns about repatriation dominated meetings later in the day with refugee elders at Shalman Camp.
"As much as we want to go home, we can’t due to a lack of shelter and assistance and the threat of warlords recruiting our sons into militias," one elder told Rupp and Biddle.
Another refugee elder from northern Afghanistan said he would only bring his family home if the mission of the international security forces was extended to provinces like his, plagued by factional strife.
Rupp said the IRC, which has been providing Afghan refugees in Pakistan with humanitarian assistance for over 20 years, would continue to do so until conditions are conducive for all Afghans to return.
|IRC President George Rupp is greeted by refugee elders at Shalman Camp in Pakistan's frontier province. (Photo: Alan Manski)|
Rupp also told the elders that the IRC understands their yearning to rebuild Afghanistan and that the IRC, which currently provides shelter, food and emergency items at Shalman, would soon begin vocational skills training and adult literacy programs at the camp. Similar programs are to begin at Basu Camp in the tribal area, where the IRC also provides services.
At a nearby school, one of 36 regular schools and 57 home schools supported by the IRC in NWFP, a young refugee girl said her family returned to Afghanistan earlier this year, only to find their home was destroyed and there were no trained teachers at the village school. With no aid available, she said, her family thought it best to return to Pakistan.
Earlier, Rupp and Biddle met with Northwest Frontier Province authorities in Peshawar to discuss the fate of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who remain in Pakistan.
Speaking to Chief Secretary Shakil Durrani, the administrative head of the province, Biddle said, "It’s important to recognize that although security and services have improved in some parts of Afghanistan, other areas continue to be haunted by insecurity or have little access to humanitarian relief."
Biddle said refugees from these areas are less likely to repatriate and will need continued assistance and protection in Pakistan.