US Calls on Pakistan to Open Borders for Afghan Refugees

Washington: The US demand for opening Pakistani borders for Afghan refugees could further escalate tensions between the two countries.

Reports state that a senior US State Department official stated while briefing news reporters about the new US policy for Afghan refugees, that it will be essential for Pakistan to continue to open its borders for Afghan refugees.

The official further added that if the refugees go north to Turkey or towards Iran, they will have the opportunity to enter the US as well as register with the government or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A new program was announced on Monday for Afghan employees who have worked for US-funded projects or the media or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) wherein they will be allowed to resettle into the US.

In addition to Pakistan, the State Department has also asked Turkey to allow Afghans to stay in the country for 14 months before resettling in the United States.

It may be recalled that National Security Adviser Moeed Yousaf had said in a briefing in Washington this week that arrangements should be made to keep the displaced Afghans inside their own country instead of admitting them to Pakistan.

“Why should they be deported?” he asked. “Make arrangements for them inside their country, Pakistan does not have the capacity to take in more refugees.”

The Turkish government has also criticized the US plan to use third-world countries to resettle Afghans, saying the move would create a “major refugee crisis” in the region.

“We do not accept the irresponsible decision of the United States without consulting our country,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued in Ankara.

He said that if the United States wanted to repatriate them, it was possible to do that directly by air, and that Iran and Pakistan are two countries that could help with the resettlement.

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, so US policymakers are looking to Pakistan to help implement the program.

However, Pakistan seems reluctant to do so. Since 1979, Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghans and more than 3 million are permanently settled in the country.

Pakistani officials say their economy is not strong enough to accommodate any more refugees. 

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